Character Corner: Ethical Health

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- My father-in-law recently spent a month in the hospital. At one point, a last-ditch procedure saved his life by using dialysis to remove 21 liters of excess fluid from his body in three days. After that, he recovered steadily until he was stable enough to move to rehab.

The next phase of his recovery will not be as critical or dramatic as the dialysis was, but it will be much more difficult. The life-saving procedure was passive, something that was done to him -- they just hooked him up and pressed "start." But for all its effectiveness, the best it could do was address the problem. It could not create health. My father-in-law will need to exercise hard and regularly to recover a decent quality of life.

Punishment, threats and intimidation serve much the same function of dialysis. They keep many people from doing things that are harmful to others. However, if harsh enforcement of rules is the only thing that keeps us from doing wrong, then we are not ethically healthy. We must do something that takes us to true ethical health.

If fear is the only thing motivating you to toe the line, take more positive action. Find an "exercise buddy," someone who exhibits ethical behavior, and emulate their example. At first, the changes will need to be intentional and may be tough. However, in the end, they are indispensable to becoming as healthy and strong as you can be.