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Morals Vs. Ethics

There’s a great deal of confusion around what morals and ethics mean. Let’s see if I can help those confused about the difference between them, understand them a little better.

While they are definitely closely related, morals refer to personal guiding principles, and ethics refer to specific set of rules and actionable behaviors.

A moral code is an idea or belief that’s driven by a desire to be or do good. An ethical code is a set of rules that define appropriate actions and accepted behavior.


The concepts are similar, but there are some subtle differences …

What are Morals?


One’s idea of morals is shaped by their environment, their learned accepted behaviors and their belief system. Moral values guide a person’s decisions around right and wrong beliefs, behaviors and actions.


Moral Values provide the guiding ideas behind ethical systems. This is where it can get confusing because morals are what drives the decisions for ethics.

Morally one may want to do the right thing, and their moral impulse is based on their belief in the highest good lending to their best intentions.


So then What are Ethics?


Ethics differ from morals in that they are a code for everyone to follow.

An ethical code does not mean it is morally good. It is a defined set of rules for people to follow. For example, The American Medical Association has a very specific code of ethics for those in that field. If you step outside that code of ethics you can be disciplined or lose your license.

So, an ethical code has nothing to do with personal beliefs. It is as simple as a set of rules for a specific group to ensure they stay out of trouble legally and act in a way that brings credit to the profession.

Ethics aren’t always moral and morals don’t always fall within an ethical expectation.

An example of this is “Omerta”, which is a code of silence amongst members of the Mafia, to protect each other from the police, or outsiders. This is part of their code of ethics but is seen as morally wrong.


A for a moral action being unethical; a legal counsel could tell the court that his client is guilty, acting out of a moral belief and desire for justice, however it would be highly unethical, due to the overt violation of the attorney-client privilege that is part of the ethics agreement when entering into this field of work, which could lead to its own legal battle due to breaking the ethical agreement.


So, morals have to do with a personal belief in right and wrong and Ethics are a set of rules that a group is expected to follow.

In today’s world this can be a very confusing and a diverse topic depending on who you are conversing with. Hopefully, this helped you understand both just a little more.


Here’s to morally positive day! :)

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