- Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal-bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)
Morals – “Of or relating to right behavior” (Merriam-Webster)
I believe the most important, and contentious, part of this definition is “right behavior”. What is considered “right” to one person, or set of people, may be considered neutral, or even evil by others. The definition of “right” can also change as a person or community evolves. This is something we all have to keep in mind when talking about ethics and judging others for their actions. Luckily there seems to be some “right behavior” that the vast majority of people can agree on, at least to a point. For example, the Golden Rule appears across many cultures. Even though there may be variations, the main theme stands: Treat others like you would want them to treat you. Another, more individual, example of what is considered “right behavior” is not drinking coffee because your religion forbids it. No matter what the rule of right behavior, morals keep your actions in line with the acceptable behavior of the group or groups, you are involved in.
Values – “Something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable” (Merriam–Webster)
Just as with the definition of “moral”, what is considered a value is subjective and mutable depending on your morals, which depend on the acceptable behavior of whatever groups you are in. I believe that values can be seen as statements that arise out of a set of morals. Values can be individual, or communal, just like morals. My values and your values may be very close together or vastly different. Most people hold kindness and truthfulness as values. I may hold giving to charity as a value while another person sees massing wealth as a value. Some people value collegiate education and others value learning by doing as in an apprenticeship program. Again, it all depends on the person and what they learned as they grew up.
Personal Bias – “A predisposition or a preconceived opinion that prevents a person from impartially evaluating facts that have been presented for determination; a prejudice” (West’s Encyclopedia)
An example of personal bias would be if a therapist assumes that anyone that acts out in a violent way was abused as a child. That therapist would then ignore all other factors which may be the cause of the behavior and only offer solutions and council in line with her theory, even though something completely different may be the actual cause.
We all have personal biases. The key is to become aware and acknowledge that you have them so that you can lessen the impact they have on your decisions and interpretation of reality to the greatest extent possible. The important thing is to realize we have them and keep them from interfering with our lives.
Professional Boundaries – “Differentiates professional relationships from personal relationships insuring that openness and vulnerability are not exploited.” (Clinic for Boundary Studies)
We all have boundaries, lines that we won’t cross. They help us outline our set of morals. Professional boundaries are very important, especially when it comes to any kind of helping profession. People that go to helpers, whether those helpers are psychologists, social workers, or clergy members, tend to be in a more fragile state than normal. They are opening up to someone and looking for help. This vulnerability may lead to unhealthy attachments which may cause harm that that person. That is the last thing a helper should want.
Professional boundaries also come into play when there is an unequal balance of power or responsibility. Rev. Jessie “Medb” Olson addresses this in her article “Sexual Relationships in Your Grove”. As a member of the clergy, you have to be very careful with developing relationships with those you serve. If the balance of power is off and things go wrong, it not only affects the people in the relationship, but can also devastate a community. I think Rev. Olson’s chart is a very good tool for analyzing relationships that may arise in a clergy-lay person situation.
Confidentiality – “The ethical principle or legal right that a physician or other health professional will hold secret all information relating to a patient, unless the patient gives consent permitting disclosure” (American Heritage)
Confidentiality is keeping sensitive information secret. When a person goes to a doctor or a therapist, or even discusses sensitive information with a friend, they expect that information to go no further. That person has extended a high level of trust. For some, the assurance of confidentiality is the only reason they may approach someone for help. If confidentiality is not upheld and the person finds out about it, that trust is broken. At best, the person will no longer have full faith and trust in the professional or friend that broke the trust. At worst, they may not seek help for their condition which may lead to more harm coming to themselves.
Right – “Morally or socially correct or acceptable” (Merriam–Webster)
Morals and values work together to help a person decide what the right thing is for them or the community in which they live. I believe that most people want to do the right thing. The big question is what, exactly, is the right thing? From definitions above we have seen that morals and values are changeable depending on the person or the community. This means that what is considered right or correct is also changeable. Unfortunately, sometimes the debate over what is “right” can, and has, become contentious and even violent when people hold onto what their idea of “right” is so tightly that they do not leave any chance of flexibility. This leads to exclusion instead of acceptance.
Wrong – “not morally good or correct” (Merriam–Webster)
Wrong is the opposite of right. It is those behaviors that a person or community have dubbed undesirable. Once again a person or communities morals and values will speak to what they consider wrong. Unfortunately, there are groups in society at large that equate being different from them as being wrong. The difference noted may be an action or even a person’s physical appearance. So I think the questions should be “why this person is considered wrong?” Is it because they committed a violent act like robbing a bank or is it because their skin color is different. There has to be a sense of right and wrong, but I think we have to be careful and examine our justifications for labeling people this way.
- Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)
To successfully deal with others in any kind of helping capacity, be it clergy or counselor, a person must have a healthy awareness of themselves. They need to know what their personal biases are so that they can, as much as possible, mitigate the effect those biases may have on the perception of an issues as well as the subsequent advice that may be given. If done effectively, the person can remain as neutral as possible and give valuable counsel. If personal bias is not accounted for, the counsel given may, at best, be ineffective but at worst, be damaging to the seeker. For me personally, I try very hard to remain neutral when someone comes to me for advice. It’s difficult when you have really strong feelings about something, though. For example, if someone has an idea about a more efficient process in our department, I try to consider it honestly and not just shoot it down because it is different than what we have been doing. Am I successful all the time? Nope, but as I have become more aware of my bias for keeping things the way they are, I am much more likely to catch myself, circumvent the bias and actually listen and give the new suggestion the chance it deserves.
Confidentiality is also very important. People come and talk to me about a lot of different subjects. This is partly due to the fact that they know that I will keep what we discuss confidential. They know that if they come and talk to me about potentially sensitive information that they won’t hear about it a few minutes later around the water cooler. This trust has served me well professionally, too. My boss as well as upper management knows that they can come to me and bounce ideas around without having to worry that I will tell everyone in the company. Because of this, I am considered trust worthy and they recommend me for special teams and projects with others in the company as well.
Boundaries are important, but tricky, especially in a professional environment. This is something that I have struggled with. I used to try to militantly separate the personal and professional. I didn’t make friends with people at work, ESPECIALLY managers. What I didn’t realize was that it is not an all or nothing situation. You can be friendly with co-workers and management but not be best friends. Laughing at a joke or going to lunch occasionally is totally different than going out and getting drunk with the Vice President after work or dating a superior. As I have discovered, it also makes work much more pleasant when you allow yourself to make those connections as long as special favors are not expected or given. Luckily I have moved from militant disapproval to this more moderate and healthier, I think, way of looking at things.
My personal ethics and the values that I hold as a result also come into play in my profession. I do a lot of data mining and analysis. In my mind, the numbers are the numbers. I was asked to investigate an issue and the result was not what my superior wanted. I was then told, “I can’t report this or I’ll look bad, fix it.” When I told them that I wasn’t going to lie about the results or manipulate the numbers, they were none too happy and tried to cajole me into doing it anyway. Thankfully, that person left shortly after that. I knew that I couldn’t, in good conscience; change the numbers just to make them line up the way someone promised they would. Once again, this shows, to most of my superiors, that the data I present is honest and can be trusted. They know that if I have a concern and bring them data to support it, that it is accurate and not manipulated to serve my own purposes. They then trust me to handle bigger and more important issues.
- Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)
At some point in everyone’s life we develop a sense of right and wrong. Many things are factors in developing this sense. Come are cultural, some seem to be universal and others are unique to our own experiences and community. Being kind to one another is a value that appears in cultures worldwide. Practitioners of Judaism do not eat pork but outside of the Jewish faith, eating pork is accepted. That is an example of a cultural value. Other things may be unique to a family or tradition/community. This can include always offering a visitor food or drink or an acceptance, or not, of hunting and consuming meat. What it boils down to is this; how we were raised, the community we were raised in, and our life experiences all play a part in how we develop our sense of right and wrong.
- Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to ― do the right thing? (100 words minimum)
One of the first questions my mother asked me when I told her I was a pagan was “If you don’t believe in God, Heaven, or Hell what keeps you from doing bad things?” This is a question I have been asked several times since then and there is no easy answer. Everyone develops a personal value system. Some people are very aware of this and others are not. Also, there is the question of who decides what “the right thing” is. I may feel that giving groceries to a needy family is “right” where others may think that offering to pay them for doing odd jobs, to make them “earn their keep” as it were, is the correct thing to do. Why do we try to do the “correct thing”, whatever that may be in our own system of values? I think that each person has their own primary motivation but fear of punishment is high on the list. For some it is the fear of jail, for others the loss of standing in a community, and for others, the fear of a deities wrath and/or an unpleasant after life.
The flip side to the fear of an unpleasant after life is doing good deeds now to make their afterlife as good as possible. Rather than focusing on avoidance, these people focus on the positive things to be gained by doing good things in this life. A person may volunteer at a shelter in the hope that when they die, their charity will help boost their enjoyment of the afterlife.
Others do what they perceive to be the right thing in order to experience the “warm fuzzies” that some people report comes from doing good deeds. This may be a something such as picking up the cost of a cup of coffee for the customer behind you.
Some people may do the right thing for the benefit of others; to bring them joy, peace, or comfort. This may include stopping at an accident and staying with a victim until help arrives so they are not alone, volunteering at a nursing home, or as a candy striper in a hospital. The person’s action elevates the person or people for whom they are caring.
Whatever the person’s motives, I am always happy when I see someone do the right thing, even though it may be the tough thing to do.
- Discuss how an individual‘s values relate to the decision making process. (100 words minimum)
A person’s value system and ethical code will affect every aspect of their lives whether they are aware of it or not. It determines everything from how a situation in perceived all the way through the person’s response to the situation and what action is taken. This includes small everyday situations as well as large potentially life changing ones.
Example one: A person has been invited to a friend’s house for a meal. As it turns out the friend is not a good cook and the meal isn’t very good. When said friend asks “Do you like it”, how should the person respond? If the person values the friendship they may say, “Not bad”, or “I’ve never had anything like this before” even though they are not telling the truth. They would rather tell a white lie than hurt the friend’s feelings. If a person values truth above all else, they may say, “It is really bad”, even though it will most likely hurt the friend’s feelings and possibly damage the relationship
Example two: A person walks into a store and finds several hundred dollars on the ground. If a person needed the money, and really who among us doesn’t, and they feel that the “finder’s keepers” rule applies, they may keep the money and go about their day. A different person may instead, worry about the person who lost the money, and either look for the owner or take it to the store’s lost and found.
Example three: A person sees a young man running down the street with a bag. He is not paying attention and runs into several people as he plows through the crowd. Some people may assume that the young man is a thief who has just stolen the bag from someone and is trying to get away. Some may think that the young man was being threatened and is trying to get away from his attackers. Others may assume that he is just in a really big hurry to get where he is going.
All of the options in each example depend on the where the person’s values lie and how those values color their view of reality.
- Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum) A clergy member has responsibilities, not only to themselves and their families, but to individuals that seek their counsel as well as the community as a whole. In many places how they act may be the first, and possibly only, example of Paganism that people encounter. This means that they need to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects well on the community. By failing to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner, they do the individuals they are working with, as well as the community as a whole, a great disservice.
For example, it is never a good idea to become romantically involved with someone seeking counsel. There is a reason this is forbidden for professional psychologists and psychiatrists. The chance of damage to the person you become involve with is very high in these cases and if you are truly a helper than that chance of damage should outweigh any other drive.
It is also the clergy member’s responsibility to keep things confidential – no matter how juicy you may think the gossip may be. You are a trusted member of the community and telling people’s secrets will break that trust, not only with the specific individual, but it will adversely affect you ability to help others because eventually no one will seek your counsel because they will be afraid that you will do to them what you have done to others. You then become ineffective, there by indirectly causing harm to those who would have come to you, but can’t or won’t because of your actions.
A clergy member should not use is or her power to force, or coerce others to do their will. They are there to ensure safety, not be the thing that people seek safety from. Once again, anyone may be in need of assistance from a clergy member will not be helped because they are too afraid to ask for the help.
Basically, treat people fairly, don’t use the position of authority for personal gain, keep things confidential, and put seekers’ well being above baser instincts and drives. If a clergy member can at least do these four things, they should be ok.
- Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)
Confidential privilege is the legal ability to keep the things you have been told in confidence, confidential (Free Dictionary). This means that the clergy member cannot be compelled to testify about something they were told during the course of counseling or confessional. This does not, however, include things said to a clergy member when they are not performing a counseling or confessional function. If someone tells a clergy member information outside of those specific times, the clergy member no longer has confidential privilege and may be required, as per local, state, and/or federal laws, to testify against the counselee.
In Indiana, a clergy member has the right to keep anything that a lay person communicates to them during counseling or confession as long as keeping the information confidential does not lead to “serious harm” either for the lay person or others(Indiana Code). This would include, but not necessarily be limited to, information about abuse, suspected abuse, threats of violence, or threats and/or thoughts of suicide. According to Indiana Code 31-33 Chapter 5, anyone, not just clergy members are required to report any abuse or suspected abuse to the proper authorities.
- One of the main principles of ethics is to ―do no harm‖. Discuss the meaning of this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)
“Do no harm” is an important principle. It is so important that it is often stated as part of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take even though it isn’t anywhere in the oath. In his article “Ethics in ADF” Brandon Newberg quotes Isaac Bonewits’ definition of harm as “of actual harm to ourselves and others” (qtd. In Newberg). In the clergy-lay person dynamic, this means that, not only do we need to help people, but we need to make sure that in the process we don’t end up hurting them along the way. We can do this by listening and doing what we can, but also knowing the limits of our abilities and referring people to appropriate professionals when our limits have been exceeded. If we try to go beyond what we are trained for, there is a good chance that we do further, unnecessary damage to the person we are trying to help. There is no shame in saying “I don’t know” and referring a person to someone with the skill set needed.
- Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)
The United States of America can have different sets of values depending on where you are and even then there may be slightly different value systems within regional groups. Rural Southern values can vary greatly from those of a person living in New York City who may also have different values from a Midwestern farmer or a Berkley professor. Since there is so much diversity, I will discuss the Nine Virtues and compare them to the values I grew up with.
Wisdom – Growing up in the hills of West Virginia, wisdom was more applied than theoretical. Things like how to tell if a storm was rolling in by looking at the sky or leaves on the trees or how to track the deer you just shot for winter meat were valued over “textbook” knowledge. The knowledge gained by doing was put into action every day. This is in contrast to some of the more theoretical wisdom that also seen within ADF. This includes delving into the theology and philosophy of ancient religions. This type of wisdom is gained from mainly cerebral exercises, rather than physical ones.
Vision – I joke a lot about fixing things with duct tape, but when you have little money you have to look beyond the obvious things to fix items that are broken or to stretch the food you have in the pantry. It is not as lofty as finding new ways to save the planet, but this more down to earth sort of inventive thinking can make just as much, if not more, difference to your family and the people in your immediate community. In ADF this type of Vision exists, but there is a grander version of the virtue that also appears. This includes thinking about more than just your immediate future and community. It includes society at large, the earth as a whole, and our place within the universe in general. That more global thinking pattern is not, for the most part, considered of much value in the culture I grew up in.
Piety – We went to church on Sunday no matter the weather. It didn’t matter if you believed in God, the Giant Spaghetti Monster, or nothing at all. You went, paid tithe, and then stayed for potluck. These were not fancy or expensive actions, but they meant just as much. The biggest difference I see between the piety I grew up with and ADF piety is we did these things out of fear or eternal damnation rather than to honor those that we chose to serve or worship.
Integrity – Living in a mostly poor, rural area, there were a lot of “handshake deals”. If someone needed something fixed, but couldn’t pay a professional to do it, someone else in the community might be willing to work a trade. This could be for a service or a needed object like food or clothing. If you promised someone something you made sure to hold up your end of the bargain. You knew that if you didn’t, not only would that person probably never deal with you again, but word would get around to the community as a whole that you were no longer trustworthy and you would lose the support system the community offered. Once again, this virtue was more local than global. There was more concern for how you and your neighbors treated each other and were treated rather than the people outside your community. If you didn’t know someone with a particular issue, then their fair treatment didn’t really matter much to you. This is in direct contrast to the more global form of Integrity that is valued in ADF. In ADF, people should act with integrity across the board as be concerned when others are not being treated fairly regardless of their proximity or whether or not there are shared issues.
Courage – With the people that I grew up around, it took courage just to keep on going. I remember my friends and I being made fun of because I didn’t have the up to date outfit and because I had to bring lunch instead of buy school lunches but I also remember standing up for one another even though we were made fun of even more because of it. I see ADF Courage as more “battle ready”, rather than the courage to do everyday things. It seems to be a grander kind of courage more concerned with everyone and everything rather than the mundane.
Perseverance — When you are poor and living out in the middle of nowhere you learn to keep going even though there seems to be more rough days than easy ones. We dug potatoes, tended gardens, and scraped together cheap meals the best we could always telling ourselves that things would get better “someday”. There was no promise that “someday” would come, but we always acted like it would. You didn’t give up; you just stretched things as much as you could and waited. I think this Virtue mirrors the ADF version very well. In both, it boils down to “keep on keeping on”.
Fertility – Growing what you can. We relied pretty heavily on the fertility of the land. We grew and canned whatever we could to stock up for the winter. There was also creative fertility, though. We figured out ways to use scraps of fabric for quilts and pillows, dreamt up all sorts of crafts and other activities to use what materials we had on hand, and found new and interesting ways to recycle everything. West Virginia Fertility was used to create things we needed to exist. In ADF, I see Fertility being use for pleasure as well. We create because we can. We create for the inherent beauty of both the act of creation as well as the thing that is created. It does not necessarily have to have a specific function other than to be beautiful or enjoyable.
Moderation – I think this is one that most of us have troubles with. We lived with a kind of forced moderation, but when we had a chance to cut loose, we tended to go overboard. Moderation was something preached and attempted, but I don’t think we did that good a job at. In ADF, Moderation as a Virtue is more of a choice than it was in West Virginia. In WV it bordered on rationing. In ADF, there is abundance and you chose to limit how much you partake. That was not really the case in rural West Virginia.
Hospitality — I think this is the Virtue that was the most important where I grew up, it didn’t matter of the person coming to your door was your best friend or your mortal enemy, you offered them something to drink and, if it was around meal time, you offered a place at the table. It was a way to make sure the community stayed together and to reach out to one another and still let people down on their luck keep their pride. You learned early on not to argue with grandmothers when they tried to feed you and never refuse an Italian’s homemade wine. Both were considered insults and you’d be in BIG trouble. I really don’t see a contrast between the ADF and West Virginia versions of Hospitality.
The community I grew up in was definitely in the third function of producer. Even though some of the first and second function’s virtues applied – especially integrity, most of the values I grew up with were “down home”. They dealt with the everyday function of society and ensuring that basic needs were met. The community as a whole didn’t think too much about the big, cosmic picture, though most of us had dreams of doing something other than stay in the hills. Much of the knowledge and values that were held were more practical rather than philosophical.
- The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Using the Nine Virtues of ADF, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code.
(No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)
As I was beginning the process of creating my code of ethics, I thought about what kind of ethical code I currently live by and how it relates to the Nine Virtues. I also thought about how I would ideally, like to see myself relate to others. Living by any sort of code or values system is an ongoing process. You are never one hundred percent perfect at it, but you are always trying to be the best person you can be. I thought about what each virtue represented to me and how I thought it should be represented in a public, professional situation. I also thought about that others codes or value systems I have been influenced by and how those would or would not relate to the Nine Virtues of ADF. I also went back to my Dedicant Oath and revisited the promises made there. I wrote this code knowing that each line is an ideal and that, because I am human and flawed, I will make mistakes, probably some big ones. The important part is to strive to adhere to each and everyone and get a bit better at the ones I struggle with over time.
Although this standard states that my code of ethics is for use as ADF Clergy, I will also apply it to non-clergy related situations. The following code will affect all aspects of my life, not just the ADF Clergy Specific ones. To be a truly ethical person, I don’t see how you can have one set of ethics when wearing priestly vestments and a completely different set when wearing “civvies”. I have known people that have done this, and I neither liked them nor had any respect for them. The statements that make up my Code of Ethics will be the things which I will weigh my actions and reactions to make sure that I am conducting myself correctly, no matter the role which I am filling.
My Code of Ethics
- I will share my knowledge with honest and dedicated seekers.
- I will, within the parameters of my abilities, offer truthful and honest counsel to those that seek it.
- I will uphold the bonds of confidentiality between myself and those whom I may counsel so long as in doing so no harm or injury to will come to either the one seeking counsel or others (i.e. abuse allegations, suicidal thoughts, threats of violence, etc).
- I will treat those who come to me with honor, dignity and respect.
- I will be fair in business and social interactions.
- I will, to the best of my ability, strive to gather all information available before reacting to a situation.
- I will, to the best of my ability, stand up against injustice and inequality.
- I will nurture my own creative spirit.
- I will take care of my own spiritual, mental, and physical needs.
- I will stay within the limits my abilities rather than extend myself too far and risk causing harm to myself or others.
- I will celebrate the High Days.
- I will honor my Ancestors, The Spirits of Nature, and the Shining Ones.
- I will perform other observances and devotions as agreed to by my Patrons and I.
- I will continue to feed my hunger for knowledge.
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