Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Leader Resource 3: Compassion Dilemmas

Part of Virtue Ethics

Dilemma 1

If a person approaches you on the street and asks for money for food, do you give them what money you can spare? Some people are afraid that the person might be addicted and will spend the money on alcohol or other drugs. Therefore, your money is feeding their addictions. Others say that if you refuse to help people, you are not practicing compassion and eventually your heart will turn cold. What other thoughts go through your mind when you encounter a panhandler? Is there a balance to giving money to everyone who asks and not giving to anyone?

Dilemma 2

Your cat is sick and you take it to the vet. The prognosis is terminal: You know your cat will die. You have the option to let your cat die naturally or to "put it down." The vet assures you euthanizing the cat will be painless and quick; you can be with your cat until the end. How do you decide? What if your cat's death may be painful and drawn out? What if your cat has kidney disease and the vet says its death may take weeks, but involve no pain; the cat will simply grow more and more tired, sleep a great deal, and eventually one day fall asleep and not wake up. Does the manner of the natural death influence your choice?

Dilemma 3

Financial donations to international service organizations give us a way to express compassion toward people we will never meet. Yet, so many organizations are seeking funds. How do you choose where to send your donation? Do the long-term problems of a marginalized segment of another country's population activate your compassion? If so, does it matter to you what kind of relationship the people's country has with the U.S.? Should you send money to help educate girls in the Middle East, or children born with cleft palates in India? Do you prefer to keep your charitable contributions closer to home? What parameters do you and your family consider when choosing from thousands of deserving charities seeking contributions?