“There can be no question of holding forth on ethics. I have seen people behave badly with great morality and I note every day that integrity has no need for rules.” – Albert Camus
The pursuit of one’s ethical code is determined by who they would like to become rather than the person they are. There is no time lost on shame and regret nor do the words of others deter one’s actions when they are planted with firm ethical roots.
My greatest times of difficulty have occurred when I’ve chosen to stay silent when my ethics were telling me to stand up and be heard. In adulthood, I cannot recall a turbulent time that did not start with me ignoring something. This does not mean that I have any semblance of control over how life events occur, just that I am in control in how I show up in my own life.
Recently, our dog Winston died. About five months ago we brought him to the vet, and he was a healthy five-year-old dog. Then a few months later, he started to slow down. I was certain that something was seriously wrong with him as he no longer annoyed me constantly for attention and walks. Winston was my husband’s dog primarily, and I was hesitant to tell him what to do and really nothing was obviously wrong, the dog just seemed different. But my ethics would not allow me to remain quiet, so we had a conversation.
My husband was quick to remind me that I hadn’t been taking him on as many walks and that our home life had been very chaotic with illness, and kids, and life, and that the dog was probably just depressed. But he took what I said to heart and made an appointment with the vet. The next day the dog stopped drinking or eating. Within a week it had been confirmed that Winston was dying of cancer.
There was one more intervention on my part when Winston was taken to the pet hospital, and we were fortunate enough that we got there in time to start a medication that would give him a few more weeks of life without pain.
For just shy of a month, Winston went on walks every day and we pet him late into the evening. He got steak and pizza and whatever else he wanted to eat. We were able to show our love and respect for him. When he no longer wanted to go on walks, we made the decision it was time to plan for the end. We made an appointment with the vet to come to our home and to have him euthanized.
Winston’s last day was peaceful, and he met his end while lying in his favorite spot outside with both my husband and I there petting him. There was no fear or pain in his eyes when he left. Winston had a good death.
What would have happened had I chosen to stay silent? I can’t say for sure, no one can, but I imagine Winston’s end would have not been as peaceful and we would have not had the opportunity to spend his last days together in gratitude.
We are the only ones that must live with ourselves 24 hours a day. Had I said nothing about what I witnessed with our dog Winston, I may still be lamenting his death but because I was able to intervene on his behalf and in alignment with my own ethical code, I have grieved his death and smile in gratitude for getting the opportunity to know him.
Today, I will focus on aligning with my ethics and speaking up when my moral code requires it.