A Re-think of the “New Start”

Earlier, I lamented about my old writing having to remain behind the curtain of academia rather than for all the interwebs to see. This feeling was based on my initial reaction of trying to repurpose it for the sake of content creation. At the time, I thought and said it was shit. But as I look back at it again to use as fodder . . . er research for my next piece, I realized that it might not be that bad. Not now, at least. In fact, what may have influenced me to think such judgmental thoughts in the first place was when I ran it through Grammarly and saw my text light up like an error-filled Christmas tree.

For those not familiar with Grammarly, it’s spell-check on steroids. As long as you don’t let it dominate your writing (like I let it earlier), it’s a somewhat helpful tool. Zoe Bee did an excellent video about the pitfalls of the program, which you can see below.

Anyway, after relegating it to what I called “run-of-the-mill undergrad fare,” I’m starting to change my mind. Although I still acknowledge that it lacks the polish that it would have gotten had it not been written in haste, I think it might have enough substance to stand on its own. At best, that “nugget of insight” I believe is still there, is there. At worst, it’s a lesson on how maybe I shouldn’t flaunt my old work as “good.”

Whatever the case, here is my new plan. I will take that something I wrote, oh, three to five years ago, clean it up a little using Grammarly (sparingly), and bank on the fact that it wasn’t as stinky as I thought it was.

Cool? Cool.

I present the first writing assignment from the first class I took when I went back to college in 2017.

P.S. I just figured out what’s wrong. My references are pretty old. Next time, I will rewrite my old works using more relevant references. Until then, cool.

My Personal Ethical Decision-Making Framework

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Neither is figuring what is or isn’t wrong. Sometimes we weigh the pros and cons of a particular issue in our heads, but other times we just “go with our gut.” Whatever the case, I believe that most of us form and re-form my way of thinking. This includes my ethical intentions due to crucial moments within my lifetime. Those moments range from traumatic events to epiphanies from self-reflection. Based on these experiences, I will define my ethical framework and explain how I ended up using this model. I will then compare it to the main ethical theories discussed in Collins’ (2012) Business Ethics textbook. I will close with my last thoughts on ethical frameworks and their usefulness.

Despite Collins (2012) not directly defining an ethical framework, he acknowledges the complexity of decision-making influences and processes that an individual goes through when deciding whether to engage in ethical or unethical behavior. I believe the foundation of this decision-making process lies in one’s personal ethical framework. Factors that influence this model can be age, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and upbringing. I regard childhood experiences as the most compelling determinant of one’s formation (or lack thereof) of a moral compass. I believe our sense of morality is formed in our younger years regarding fulfilling what Maslow called our physiological needs, safety needs, and needs for belonging (Ma, 2013). It is how we are treated when we are young that generally affects how we treat ethical dilemmas.

I don’t think I grew up in a typical Filipino home. My father was a liberal Protestant (Anglican) Christian. Still, my mother was a conservative Catholic, so I was Catholic for most of my early years. However, I remember going to both churches based on more social reasons rather than religious ones. It wasn’t until later that this fact would change my impression of organized religion. Before that time, I thought of myself as fully Catholic and would be so until the end of my life. Although I claimed to be Catholic, I wasn’t entirely comfortable thinking I was one. It wasn’t when I started going to college that my outlook began to change. The more “Christians” I met, the more various versions of worship and dogma I saw. When I joined the military, my experiences became broader as I started to meet different people of different nationalities, religions, and beliefs. It wasn’t until I was stationed in Okinawa that I began to build a moral foundation that I was comfortable with to make my ethical decisions.

I would like to say my thoughts and actions were motivated by virtue ethics. If an act strengthens moral character, then it is correct (Collins, 2012). But suppose I were to be truly honest. In that case, I agree with Adam Smith that people, particularly Americans, are what renowned management researcher Geert Hofstede identified as having an individualist culture (Jandt, 2018). In fact, among 76 developed countries, the United States ranks as #1. I was born in the Philippines and did not immigrate to the U.S. until I was 8 years old. However, I have come to respect the values of self-reliance, autonomy, and looking after myself and my immediate family. That does not mean I base all my decisions on what Kohlberg calls the pre-conventional moral development stage (Collins, 2012).

The United States Air Force has ingrained in me powerful moral principles that will stay with me well beyond my service commitment. The most important lesson I learned and tried to use as much as possible when leading and mentoring my junior members is Prudence First, Justice Second (Toner, 2000; Ethical Leadership, 2017). Prudence is defined as an intellectual habit of choosing the proper means to achieve worthy ends. Simultaneously, justice establishes and maintains the laws required for the common good and advancement in society. A remarkable but straightforward example is about dealing with a subordinate that’s late to work. You can waive a one-time occurrence with a warning, but repeated infractions are a problem. Technically, it is considered a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (United States, 2000). Still, there’s no reason to reprimand or even correct the Airman’s negative behavior without discussing why she has been late more than once. If she’s having problems at home or not sleeping well, counseling would focus on steering her in the right direction to improve her situation and prevent further transgressions. This principle mirrors Cultural Relativism’s theory and Kohlberg’s fourth moral development stage (Collins, 2012). I firmly believe that prudence before justice is the right thing to do if it is within the United States Air Force’s rules. While military culture has had a profound effect on my personal code of conduct, it has not done the same with my view of morality.

I attribute a large part of my ethos to immersing myself in the Far East’s very different concept of religion, that of a more fluid and all-inclusive view. In Western religions, affiliation is absolute: it’s either your Christian or your Jewish. You can’t be both. In contrast, Eastern religions treat membership in more fluid terms (DuBois, 2011). It’s perfectly normal for somebody from Korea or Japan to adopt Christian, Buddhist, and Confucian teachings but not identify with any or all of them. What matters is the rituals, the prayers (or meditations), and most of all, the ethics. I have learned to practice the precepts of benevolence and understanding from Buddhism, the moral guidance portrayed through the Bible’s gospels, and throwing coins and praying to my ancestors for prosperity in a Shinto (and Buddhist) shrine. Through this all-inclusive system of beliefs, state of mind, and spiritual faith, I feel I can reach Kohlberg’s sixth stage of moral development. It allows me to train myself to cultivate virtuous habits (Collins, 2012). My goal is to authentically make decisions that benefit myself, my community (military or otherwise), and my connection to the pursuit of achieving harmony with the world around me. This brings me back to how doing the right thing isn’t always easy.

I believe my parents instilled in me a flexible outlook towards religion, albeit not the way they intended. Even though my Dad was relaxed in his Christian beliefs, he encouraged me to be as devoted a Catholic as my mom. But as I got older, I saw more of the world. I attained a greater understanding of ethical human behavior and my role in it. I felt one does not have to follow a particular set of rules to be a righteous person. But it’s an excellent place to start and build a foundation for your personal ethical decision-making framework.


Collins, D. (2012). Business ethics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

DuBois, T. D. (2011, December 28). Why Doesn’t Asia Have Religion? The Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-david-dubois/does-asia-have-religion_b_1031869.html

Ethical Leadership. (2017). In the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Professional Military

Education Distance Learning Course. Maxwell-Gunter AFB, AL: Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education.

Jandt, F. E. (2018). An introduction to intercultural communication: identities in a global community. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Ma, H. K. (2013). The Moral Development of the Child: An Integrated Model. Frontiers in Public Health,1. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2013.00057

Originally published at https://errolcatanes.com on April 12, 2021.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store