Ethics of not doing something because you simply don't want to

As I mentioned earlier, I’m pretty involved in school. There’s a lot of committees, events, and service projects around. Some of those things I would put my heart and soul into them. Then there’s others that I couldn’t care less about. Last, there’s things that I simply don’t want to do. There’s usually sign-up sheets for these. If I don’t want to do them, then I don’t sign up. Sometimes I still recieve a phone call or am personally asked to volunteer for something, even if I didn’t sign up. This usually happens when not enough people sign up. When this happens I am put in an awkward position. If I say no, I don’t want to be self-centered. If I say yes, then I doing something that I originally avoided for a reason.* Or, is the organization or the person in charge of the committee/event/project at fault? Personally, if I was in charge of something (and I have, a few times) I would just cancel an event/project or get rid of the committee, if there was a large lack of interest. I wouldn’t want to pressure someone to do something they don’t want to do. Or worse, they show up and do a half-assed job or cause drama.

*common reasons why I don’t volunteer
-I think I would suck at what I’m being asked to do. Like handling money or budget.
-I think environment/conditions are dangerous.
-The event or project conflicts with my schedule.
-I have to commit too early, like a several weeks before the project or event. I like keeping my options open.
-This sounds bad, but I’m being real. The “wrong” people sign up.

When it comes to volunteering for something that is not of earthshaking, lifesaving importance, I think that “I don’t want to” is reason enough. I don’t think you need to justify or explain your decision not to sign up.

In a way, this reminds me of the guys who beg and wheedle trying to get a woman to have sex. “Well, why not?” Because I don’t want to. That really, truly should be the end of the conversation. But it seldom is.

I donno, man. I’m a big proponent of the “it’s your life, and you only get one, so don’t waste your limited time doing crap you don’t feel like doing” position. within reason, of course, but I think skipping certain parts of something that’s voluntary anyway is well within.

Whether this is bad or not depends on your criteria for the “wrong” people.

Bad: The wrong people are unattractive, dress badly, of the wrong gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, socio-economic class, class in school, major, fraternity/sorority (or lack thereof), religion, etc.

OK: The wrong people are the ones who are likely to do a half-assed job or cause drama.

I agree. My default position for things as varied as volunteering, donating, and sales spiels is always no. Only the power or unbridled logic and convincing information can move that boulder. I always keep a small sliver of open mind to just about everything but most things don’t meet the test. I too don’t see why you feel the need to justify not doing anything unless it is something that has a strong need and requires you specifically.

Your reasoning is sound and you own no one an explanation. “I’ve chosen not to do that” is sufficient even if you have to say it more than once in the same conversation.

Any of those sound like a fine reason to not sign up. If someone presses, just say what your reason is (i.e. “Because my schedule won’t allow it.”)

Gah. It’s called volunteering for a reason! No is fine. It’s not the army, they can’t make you! You really don’t need a better reason than that you don’t want to, to not volunteer. It’s not self-centred. If you’re already involved in volunteer activities, saying no to the ones you don’t want to do is self-preservation. Not being able to say no would eat you alive.

In jobs and school, you have to put up with specific tasks you don’t particularly fancy, or that make you sick to your stomach.

But volunteering should be, well, volunteer. Only because these particular guilt-trippers aren’t your Mom doesn’t mean you should acve in :wink:

CAve, caaaaaaave!

ai kan spel, ai jas kant ruait.

If participation is somehow compulsory, it kind of removes the “voluntary” aspect of the activity. If the activity truly is voluntary, then no explanation or justification for not participating is required. Your right, by default, is to say no at any time, and for any reason.

The flip side is that organizations don’t want people who don’t really want to be there. They understand that people have conflicts and other demands on their time, but if you’re not committed, you’re taking up space that can be used for someone else who is committed.


My grandmother gets this all the time from her church. She volunteers mass amounts of time to getting projects going, such as making pies for bake sales, helping in the day care center, etc. She’s gotten the reputation as always being willing to help, so whenever the sign-up sheets don’t attract enough volunteers, people hound her to participate. She’s grumbled to me that if they put as much effort into the projects as they did into recruiting her, they wouldn’t need her help in the first place.

After years of this, she finally grew a backbone. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t participate.” I told her to tell those who were rude enough to ask why that she had "other commitments’’ and leave it at that. (Took a bit of convincing for her to understand that her leisure time should be considered a commitment, because she’s the kind of person who always thinks of herself last.)

People who lazy, bitchy, and/or boring. When you’re with the right kind of people, time flies, regardless what you’re volunteering for!

I think that’s a legitimate classification of “wrong people.” The Wrong People are the people who make you sorry you bothered to not volunteer in the first place.

From Dictionary.Com

  1. To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will.
  2. To do charitable or helpful work without pay.

You don’t want to do it, don’t do it. There’s no ethics involved here. :slight_smile:

As everyone else has said, if you don’t want to do it (for whatever reason) you don’t have to do it. Decline politely. “I’m sorry, I’m simply not going to be able to _______.”

But please remember that the person calling is in a different place than you. They don’t know why you didn’t sign up - perhaps (they ferverently hope) it’s because you missed the meeting where signups were happening, or you were there, but didn’t see the signup sheet, or maybe it’s because you weren’t sure if you were free then - but you might be now. While they shouldn’t be guilt tripping you into showing up, giving time, or giving money, they aren’t doing the job they volunteered for if they don’t ask you at all.