Progression of Ethical Stages in Transformation

I am a process and system person, going back to my days of high school and college…..find the patterns, understand the systems, use the processes…..analyze things qualitatively and quantitatively…..strive for effectiveness and efficiency.  Whatever the endeavor, I have tended to approach it from the standpoint of a “task” orientation.  As an extrovert with an interest in people’s interests and desires, too, however, I can also find delight in getting to know people better as part of the journey toward the task’s goal.  Then, of course, there’s the passion for the Gospel and relationship with Christ that assures that spiritual conversations and lessons about biblical promises and principles will accompany us! 

One thing I have observed over the last 10 years is that there is a pattern to the motivations of people’s hearts and minds that can be instructive in assisting them in their efforts at change.  In the last two years I’ve been more attentive to watching for resistance or readiness to progress from one stage of ethical posture to the next and prayerfully asking God to help me prime and push when needed. 

Some people are highly motivated and adapt readily to the transformational process with very little nudging in ethical instruction and example. That is often the result of prior experience with a higher ethical standard earlier in life with which they readily reconnect.   Others have a high degree of resistance to change and are stuck in the highly individualistic culturally- promulgated self-interest based ethic which is most strongly evidenced in individuals who have lived for a long time in unboundaried, chaotic, and rebellious lifestyles.  

Such individuals, when they voluntarily come into Titus 2 or are directed by authorities to do so, they are often very resistant to the required transition to a rules-based ethic.  The rules-based ethic is not a comfortable place for one persistently entrenched in a self-interest based ethic.  There tends to be a lot of rebellion against it, active or passive resistance, manipulation to avoid it, etc.  Thankfully, it is not a permanent place where one must dwell indefinitely.  However, the imposition of rules upon self-interest based individuals always upsets the fragile balance in the household.  Anytime a boundary is put in place with generally unboundaried indivudals resistance and anger are likely to result.

This week the staff and students have been working through yet another transition from the first stage to understanding and acceptance of the second stage…..getting the rules stage in its proper perspective for our newer members.   

Once an individual understands the process and can make a well-considered decision about where she wishes to live, based on what offers the REAL advantage to her long term wellbeing and the wellbeing of family and community, we find resistance is reduced and it is a much easier transition out of resistance to the imposed rules-based ethic and an easier move to the value-based ethic.  It becomes clear that the  rules, which arise from what is necessary to support the values that are accepted, are generally less oppressive when it is understood that they exist to support the values and then, the more highly refined Christ-like virtues of a biblical worldview and the community we are building.  As long as the individual is ready and willing to change, usually because of the pain inherent in NOT changing, when it becomes clear there are tools to make it understandable and bearable, she can drop the resistance and cooperate in the process. 

It doesn’t always work, but it works better than simply wishing and hoping.  My opportunity is to pray for the discernment and wisdom to be poised to nudge and support when the sincere desire for change is observed.  When the resistance is strong and shows no sign of yielding, it’s time to test the individual.  Generally, a persistent rule violation presents the perfect opportunity for the psychoeducation process, and a challenge to the student’s assumptions about rules, values, and change. If there is no willingness to move forward in the process and resistance to rules continues (especially with increased manipulation and undermining of others), it’s time to offer clear options –  accept the rules and begin evaluating and embracing the values or prepare a plan for exit. 

Individuals basically remove themselves from the process by their unwillingness to cooperate with it.  I believe it is just, compassionate, gracious, and life-affiming to give them as much information about the process as they need and can understand to begin to grasp the concepts and buy-in to the process and the necessity of their personal responsibility and role in it.  

To leave individuals in confusion, uninformed resistance, and fear is a set up for failure.  God does not do that to us, nor should we do it to others.  Here is the handout that I use to discuss these issues with our Titus 2 students, obtained from another source that I failed to document at the time and have been unable to identify.  I have incorporated small elements of transformational principles in each stage in order to clarify them for the life recovery process.

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ETHICS –  Review this page.  There will be a discussion later.

Ethics is a discipline that is long in tradition and rich in variety. Its development in Western civilization has been subject to two main influences over the millennia: the Greek tradition focusing on the “good life” and Judeo-Christian tradition stressing “doing what is right”. These two traditions in combination with historical and cultural factors have produced a multiplicity of ethical systems. In general, the discipline of ethics involves:

a.            establishing the validity of an ideal of human character to be achieved, ultimate goals to be striven for, and norms and standards for governing behavior;

b.            analyzing and explaining moral judgments and behavior;

c.             investigating and clarifying the meanings of moral terms and statements

1. ) Self-Interest Based Ethics: A self-interest approach to ethics stresses the importance of valuing ourselves and of self-respect. However, this approach adopts a more radical stance when it gives priority to the individual from the point of view of the individual’s own interest or desire. A self-interest based ethic advises individuals to be primarily concerned with how the outcome of a particular decision might affect them personally, often to the exclusion of any other considerations of impact to others.  

2.) Rules-based Ethics: A rules-based approach to ethics gives priority to rules, regulations and policies as a means of determining ethical behavior. It assesses the right thing to do in a situation by checking for a rule that addresses or covers the situation. The law is considered absolute in determining what should or should not be done. A rules-based ethic will prefer programs that develop elaborate and comprehensive codes designed to deal with as many situations as possible and emphasizes compliance with rules. Rules based ethical systems become better understood and tolerated as the individual understands and embraces the values underlying the rules and the positive outcomes that cooperation with the rules afford.

PROBLEMS WITH RULE-BASED ETHICS

1.            There can never be enough rules to cover every situation. One must learn to understand and interpret “the letter of the law” as well as “the spirit of the law” to avoid further extensions of minute and explicit rules on every contingency.

2.            Due to the complexity of life, the promulgation of rules can encourage an “exception” or loophole mentality…ethics becomes manipulation.

3.            Rules can conflict. Do we create more rules to adjudicate conflicts among rules? What if these rules conflict?

4.            All rules need interpretation.

5.            Focusing on rules and actions makes us think of ourselves in terms of what we do, and not who we are.

So do we simply forget about rules?

             We really cannot do without some rules. Everyone has them no matter what. Not to follow any rules is itself a rule!

             Rules are essential for understanding the difference between right and wrong—the main parameters of what is expected of everyone.  Thus they coordinate human behavior in a rough and ready way.

             Rules function as helping guidelines or synopses of cumulative moral experience and wisdom.

             Rules can clarify fundamental issues at stake in a practical problem.

3.) Values Based Ethics: Values are rooted in our culture and ways of life. They are part of the foundation upon which moral reasoning is based and serve as guides for decisions and actions. Some authors define them as enduring beliefs about what is considered to have important worth.  When the values are attached to the results our outcomes of our actions, it is also called consequence-based ethics. It emphasizes that the effects of our actions on ourselves and others tend to play an overriding role in ethical decision-making. It claims that we should assess the probable good and bad effects of the different options open to us in a situation and use these assessments as the basis for deciding what should or should not be done.   Rules and policies are in place to guide the discretionary judgment in specific situations. These programs tend to advocate transparency and usually state publicly the set of values by which they propose to operate and by which they are to be judged.   Consequences are sought that are in keeping with the violations and in proportion to the violation.  Also, called consequence-based ethics.

4.) Virtue Based Ethics: A virtue based approach to ethics gives priority to living a good life and to achieving excellence. In as much as it requires ethical decision making be based on what we achieve in life, a virtue-based approach has affinities with consequence-based ethics. A virtue based approach focuses on the life-long goal to be achieved – being a person of good character. It starts with the idea that a person of good character will strive to do the right thing. Some of the virtues possessed by such a person are integrity, courage, compassion, and a sense of justice.

 

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