What inspires you? A person? A place? An idea? A belief?
Inspiration is a deep-rooted passion that motivates us to do something.
Should ethics—the act of deciding to do what is right—be a source of inspiration? I think we are reminded daily that it should be.
How can ethics be inspiring? It starts by being at the core of so many decisions we make in our everyday lives. It is about the right way to treat people. It is about how to talk about difficult topics with each other. It tells us how to resolve our differences in an honest and receptive way. It also forces us to recognize “gray areas” and determine how to deal with them properly. Ethics is about deciding between right and wrong.
Doing the right thing is uplifting and liberating. It is an imperative that pushes us to fix wrongs, oppose injustice and strive toward a better world. This is not always easy. In organizations and communities, the challenge often comes in making collective decisions about acceptable behavior, in recognizing where the gray areas are and maintaining consistency. The aspirational journey of exploring and finding these answers is motivational and inspiring. We should be passionate about it.
I joined the advisory board of the Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College in 2019. At the time, it represented what I look for when I commit my time and energy to an activity—an important cause and the opportunity to make a difference by truly accomplishing something. Now in my second year serving as the board’s chair, I am more committed and passionate than ever to our work.
The mission of the Center for Ethics in Society is to “enrich the knowledge and practice of principled ethical decision-making by addressing important social and organizational issues through collaborative discussion, research and education.” The Center creates growth opportunities for individuals, organizations and communities by improving ethical decision-making and fostering positive culture. I am proud of how well the Center is carrying out this mission.
Every healthy community and organization upholds sound ethical standards and norms, but these inevitably lead to tensions and challenges. While it often requires courage to do so, we have an obligation to ourselves and our community to deal with these conflicts that arise. In doing so, we acknowledge that moral rules exist, and that they must apply with clarity and consistency to all of us alike. These conflicts can be healthy so long as they are addressed through open and honest dialogue, an obligation to a truly ethical environment and a commitment to avoid hypocrisy. It’s not a matter of what we’re talking about, but how we’re talking about it. It’s not about whose side we take, but whose voices we hear. Only then can we work toward that virtuous world we talk about—where transformation is achieved through dialogue.
During a very trying 2020, the work and dedication of the people involved with the Center has been nothing short of inspiring. For example, our collaborative work on the problem of housing affordability is making a difference.
The national housing crisis is hitting us hard here in New Hampshire. There is a crisis-level shortage of affordable homes and rentals that is creating tensions and challenges for families, businesses and communities across the state. The Center has become a key player in working toward solutions, bringing industry leaders, stakeholders and advocates together through initiatives that include roundtable discussions and the Housing We Need task force. Among other accomplishments, this collaboration has helped produce state legislation that bolstered the Affordable Housing Fund, created a state-wide housing appeals board and resulted in a legislative study commission on barriers to density. The governor’s recent state housing action plan incorporated many of the recommendations that, at least in part, have resulted from the Center’s efforts.
The Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College is making a positive difference and uplifting the lives of many.
Inspirational is the best way to put it.
Jeff Eisenberg is president and CEO of EVR Advertising and advisory board chair of the Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College.