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Dealing with Moral Dilemmas

“Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.”

― Mark Twain

Unfortunately, what the great American writer Mark Twain suggested is hardly easy to do.

Everyone understands that definition of "what is right" is ambiguous. Shades of gray color certain situations. Their absolute correctness is difficult to decide. We end up, not of our own volition, in moral dilemmas,

Moral dilemmas therefore happen when kinship or friendship complicates our sense of right and wrong.

Yet, our sense of right and wrong prompts us to deal with them . Just how do we do so?

Considerations that cause moral dilemmas

To deal with these less-than-straightforward moral entanglements, we must. first understand what gives rise to them.

Making appropriate moral decisions is difficult for these reasons.

1. Kinship

The first one is kinship. Moral decisions are not straightforward because they may affect our loved ones in some way.

This is akin to a scene from a soap opera, but similar, though less dramatic occurrences are possible. If someone asks you to commit a heinous crime or risk having your family compromised, the decision is not an easy one to make.

2. Friendship

Friendship is another reason making moral decisions is tough.

If bullies threaten to attack your best friend unless you steal, it is not an easy choice either.

3. Our own principles

Thirdly, we may have a "hard and fast" principles. They make it hard for us to empathize with situations clouded in shades of gray.

Making a seemingly righteous decision is not always straightforward.

4. Ambiguity

And then, some situations are morally ambiguous.

Consider this scenario. Your company stipulates that its employees should not use company stationery for their own purposes, but you witness a co-worker using a single sheet of paper to type a quick personal letter.

Does this constitute stealing?

5. Fear

Fear, too, causes moral dilemmas. Fear of an abusive person may trigger an impulse to harm him, lest he attacks again.

Moral decisions are difficult to make at times, because we have to defend ourselves.

6. We have different moral standards.

Lastly, we have different moral standards. What is acceptable to one is not to another, creating conflicts of interest.

Further, one can only decide what is right on one's own, as morality is subjective.

Explaining a moral dilemma

Dealing with personal moral dilemmas

With this understanding in mind, we are better equipped to deal with life's gray areas.

But exactly how do we go about dealing with these conundrums?

1. Be aware of what is causing the moral dilemma.

Firstly, come to terms what is causing the dilemma. Is it the ties of kinship? Or is it our fear that is preventing us from making proper moral decisions?

This gives us a better idea of the obstacles we have to overcome as we face our moral dilemmas.

2. Have the facts before you.

Then have the facts on hand. Knowing all circumstances surrounding the dilemma helps us deal with it rationally.

3. Think about the consequences.

Further, think about the ramifications of your decisions. What or who will they affect? What will it hurt?

4. Consider the moral standards of your actions.

To round off, weigh your own actions against moral standards. Ask if you have tried your best in doing the right thing morally.

Dealing with moral dilemmas at work

Moral dilemmas are, as their name states, confusions that complicate decisions. The workplace, in particular, is where moral dilemmas surface.

Knotty as these situations are, options are available to us to deal with them.

1. Gather the facts.

The first course of action when presented with a moral dilemma at work is to gather the facts. What we see as morally unethical is sometimes clouded by

office politics or biased judgments.

Put relevant information together before deciding what to do.

2. Decide if it is moral or personal.

Then decide if you have moral or personal biases. If someone is seen as morally improper, decide if it this is a purely personal judgment, or one made because the person did do wrong.

3. Get a different perspective.

Then, ask a neutral party for his or her perspective on the matter. Consult someone who is familiar with your line of work.

This person may offer a balanced view of the circumstances at hand.

4. Find out about established policies

The last option open to us when faced with a moral dilemma at the workplace is to familiarize yourself with established policies and workplace ethics. These should guide your professional and even personal actions.

These guidelines show if involved parties followed proper, ethical procedures.

Some challenging moral dilemmas

Here are some challenging moral dilemmas. What would you do if you faced them?

1. The Prisoner of War

Imagine that you are a prisoner of war. A sadistic enemy guard asks you to shoot your husband.

He says that if you do not, he will kill another innocent prisoner of war. What would you do?

2. The Paramedic

You are a paramedic who arrives at the scene of an accident. You discover that your wife and her lover are the victims.

Both are bleeding profusely, but you cannot save both on time. If you choose to help one, the other will bleed to death.

Who would you help first?

3. The pregnant tour guide

A pregnant tour guide is leading a group of tourists out of a popular cave on the coast. With her huge belly, she cannot get out of the mouth of the cave. No one can get out.

The tide is rising, slowly filling the cave with water. They have to leave the cave before they drown.

Rescue workers come with sticks of dynamite. Blowing up the mouth of the cave will kill the pregnant woman, but save the others. Should they?


We face many moral dilemmas that we have to approach as rationally as possible.

Share your experiences with us.



Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 31, 2014:

An excellent topic. It makes me smile, as your hold on these things is uncanny. You have a great sense of the human condition.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 21, 2014:

Thanks, Chitra.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 18, 2014:

Everyday we are faced with such moral dilemmas. We learn to deal with it, by thinking about the issue in a rational way. I talk to my near and dear ones, who love me if it is too tricky. Otherwise I have full faith in God and I always pray to him to guide me in the right direction.

Thanks for this thought provoking hub!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

It does indeed, Rasma!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

Yes, prayer helps us survive it, Devika.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

That always works, Conservative Lady. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

Thanks, Cristina!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

Thanks, Janet!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

It's not easy, isn't it, Sha? Sometimes we're stuck in these situations and if you do anything about it, you get caught in the middle. Thanks so much for sharing.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

Thanks, snerfu.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

They don't seem plausible in reality, I suppose, Travmaj. But we certainly get into similar conundrums!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 17, 2014:

Yes, these dilemmas are fascinatingly challenging. Thanks for sharing, Manatita.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 15, 2014:

I always find that prayer helps greatly and I keep to my faith. Passing this on.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 14, 2014:

I pray and feel relieved of that dilemma. A great thought here.

Sheila from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State on August 14, 2014:

Prayer guides me well during times of moral confusion. My motto is "Do what is right, not what is Comfortable" it has helped me through many situations. I also believe in the "greater good" principle - what is best for the majority. Interesting Hub.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on August 14, 2014:

Good thoughts to ponder about. Guess, the challenge is which way to choose.

Excellent topic. Up and sharing.

Janet Giessl from Georgia country on August 14, 2014:

This is a really tough topic. I couldn't decide what to do in all these cases you mentioned at the end of your hub. I think you can only make a decision when you are in that situation. Very well written hub.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 14, 2014:

Michelle, I was once asked at work to fudge receiving documents to make the material appear to have been ordered for a job that paid for the material as part of the contract. The company I worked for at the time was having trouble making ends meet. I told my boss I could not in good conscience do what they asked of me. I was respected for my moral stance on the issue. However, my boss ended up fudging the documents himself. Even though I wasn't involved, I had knowledge of the fact, which made me feel as guilty as if I'd manipulated the documents myself.

Vivian Sudhir from Madurai, India on August 14, 2014:

Indeed doing what is right may be tougher to find than the sunshine. But that makes life so interesting. Very well written.

travmaj from australia on August 13, 2014:

Michelle, I agree with Manatita, this is a most challenging hub. I'm not the most decisive person and tend to anguish when faced with some of the more challenging decisions. The three moral dilemmas you present, I can't answer. Oh dear, what a confession.

manatita44 from london on August 13, 2014:

Nice but challenging Hub. Some tough dilemmas at the end.

I still maintain that I will seek the answer from within. In this case, it means prayer, although frankly each one will make a decision based on where he or she is on the ladder of evolution. Judas chose to betray Christ, but Matthew could just as easily have said no.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 13, 2014:

Thanks so much, Bill. Will be visiting later!!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 13, 2014:

Excellent food for thought. I saved this for later in the day when my work was done and I could give it the attention it deserved. Living life isn't easy, is it? We are called upon daily to make difficult decisions that can have huge ramifications.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on August 13, 2014:

How do you deal with a moral dilemma?

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