Your Beliefs Don’t Make You A Better Person, Your Behavior Does

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Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does
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“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.”

In 2012, Muel Kaptein, professor of Business Ethics and Integrity Management at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, published his findings entitled “Why Good People Sometimes Do Bad Things: 52 Reflections on Ethics at Work.” In his book, he explained why people who have moral beliefs sometimes portray the opposite in their actions.

As mentioned in the book, one’s engagement in a particular task or job plays a big role in their behaviour. The more they feel like cogs in a machine and not individuals, they more they depersonalize bad behaviour such as cheating and stealing. Similarly, they more they lose their self-image in their jobs, the more likely they bend the rules. As their jobs take away their liberty to decide for themselves, people eventually lose their sense of individual responsibility.

A lot of people would be able to relate to this factor: time pressure. In a study involving theology students, results show that even after they preached the story of The Good Samaritan, time pressure affected their willingness to help a man in visible distress. Although they evidently have strong moral beliefs, urgency produced a tunnel vision that blinded them from other matters—such as being good Samaritans themselves.

In summary, Prof. Kaptein argues that society itself leads men to their own moral degradation. Although morally knowledgeable, most people have the tendency to create exceptions as long as they feel anonymous. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Ultimately, it does more harm than good.

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