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September 25, 2023

How To Deal With Ethical Dilemmas

By Deja R.
, 17
, from Teaneck, NJ

Like many other teenagers this month, my friends and I watched the Netflix movie You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah. I’m Black and not Jewish, but I still related to the typical middle-school drama surrounding crushes, friendship, and popularity. Can you date someone your friend had a crush on? Do you accept an invitation from the popular girls without inviting your less popular friends? If a friend betrayed you, is it okay to betray them back?


These are the ethical dilemmas teenagers face, especially in middle school or early high school. But now that I’m a senior, the ethical dilemmas seem harder and the stakes are higher when it comes to how to respond. We’re dealing with things like:


Dilemma 1: Your friend confides in you that she’s very depressed but makes you swear you won’t tell anyone. If you do, she won’t be your friend anymore or trust you anymore. If you don’t, she might not get help or hurt herself. It seems serious but maybe she’s right that you’re overreacting?


Dilemma 2; A classmate is using AI to write his papers and getting As on them all. This person is your main competition for college. If you tell, you’ll come off badly to the teacher who’s writing your college recommendation. If you don’t tell, this person might get a better recommendation for college.


On the first one, I would probably tell someone, and on the second, I probably wouldn’t. But these wouldn’t be easy decisions, and I don’t think my choices are right. On another day, I could make a different decision. I know that a middle school rom-com is a strange way to get us thinking about hard choices, but as I get ready to graduate, I think we’ll have a lot of hard choices to make and we need to know how to.


So I came up with a rule: What kind of person will I be if I make this decision? What kind of person will I be if I make the other decision? Who do I want to be? This answer will be different for each person.


When I think of myself and my friends, our choices and actions define us more than who we say we are or who we want people to think we are based on what we post on social media. As the choices get harder, we need to make sure they reflect our best selves.


If you have hard decisions to make, ask yourself: Who do I want to be?

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