People who believe in a deity believe that there is a guiding force in our lives. Most people cling to the idea that, in the end, good will prevail. They want to know that whatever Judgment Day looks like, that ‘bad’ people will fail, and ‘good’ people will win. The need for a deity is secondary because what we really seek is the hope that ethical behavior will triumph over unethical behavior. And it does.
Ethics, Dual Harm Theory, and Time
When someone acts unethically it harms all parties. It, of course, harms the victim(s) of the unethical act, but it also harms the party responsible for the act. Neither of the parties may realize the harm caused at the time of the act. The victim(s) may take years to realize the offense committed. The party responsible may actually have a feeling of pleasure in committing the act. If an unethical act were obvious to the victim(s) and unpleasurable to the perpetrator, we wouldn’t have unethical acts.
But over time, the victim(s) will realize the harm and it will form a negative feeling or reaction that person or party. That negative feeling will become the foundation of the relationship between the two parties and will only be undone by multiple acts of contrition by the perpetrator.
As for the perpetrator, it may take much longer for their feeling of pleasure to spoil. They may even develop a lifestyle based on repeating the unethical behavior, but eventually, they will experience negative repercussions from their unethical acts.
Reaping What They Sow
The first impact of unethical behavior on a perpetrator is mistrust and anger from the victim(s.) This essentially defeats any opportunity for a positive relationship as the betrayal of the perpetrator will determine the relationship.
CASE STUDY: A service department representative at a car dealership gives an estimate of $725 for routine maintenance on a car purchased from them, new, three years prior. When questioned, he offers two other options for lesser maintenance at $600 and $450. The routine maintenance would cost less than $150 anywhere else.
The perpetrator may also become involved in reactions from the victim(s) and/or people who are sympathetic to the victim(s.) Revenge is only one of the possible reactions, as the perpetrator will have people they didn’t even know harbor ill-will toward them. There is no limit to the damage caused by unethical behavior.
Over time, the perpetrator is tainted with the unethical behavior, and all other actions are viewed in light of the previous behavior. Eventually, the perpetrator may realize the offensive nature of the behavior and face an internal conflict of self-loathing compensated with a delusional sense of ego.
Support of Enablers
Some perpetrators of unethical behavior are reinforced by an enabler or enablers. These people prop up the unethical behavior and act as cheerleaders for the perpetrator, while vicariously enjoying the acts of unethical behavior.
The problem for enablers is that a person who is routinely unethical will likely be unethical at some point with the enabler. This eventually leads to enablers to have a limited lifespan of supporting the unethical person.
CASE STUDY: Donald Trump has had 30 notable members of his staff resign or be fired in less than 30 months after being elected President. Most of these people were enthusiastic supporters of Trump. Some of them were let go with little or no notice. In at least one case, the victim learned through a Trump tweet that he was no longer in the position.
Ethical Behavior Builds, Not Destroys
The destruction of unethical behavior is punished over time; however, ethical behavior is rewarded over time. Ethical people tend to be trusted, build lasting relationships, enjoy life more, and have a positive outlook. There is a perverse immediate pleasure that can come from fooling another person into doing something that is not in their interest. That feeling is temporary. Lasting satisfaction comes from doing the correct thing, even when there are other options.