There was an article in this morning’s Oakland press about so-called Moral Relativism – the ability of some people to take the decision that whatever they just did must be morally right, because they just did it. It’s sort of thinking, “I think it right, so it must be right.”
I’m not sure that I understand how someone can come to that conclusion or state of mind, which requires a moral compass with no grounding, just spinning in the wind. It does, however, help explain why it is so easy for so many people to blow off traffic signs and fail to stop at Stop signs or yield at Yield signs or to ignore the speed limit. Apparently in their minds it is OK for them to ignore those laws or rules or signs because they have decided that it is OK – moral relativism at work.
At the base of this way of thinking is a total lack of any kind of moral foundation for life. It is a very self-centered point of view, because it is based upon only what the person feels is right for them and not within the context of the society in which they have to live.
Everyone is self-centered, one cannot not be that way; however, to the extent that one can also be aware of and sensitive to the needs and requirements of others around them, as well as aware of the rules and laws of the society that we must live in; we exist within a society.
More egregious transgressions against others, such as robbery or doing bodily harm are thus labeled “anti-social behavior”; and they are more easily identified and avoided by most. It’s the little things (rules and laws) that are the easiest to rationalize away. I’m in a hurry, so it’s OK for me not to stop at every sign. I need to get somewhere quickly, so it’s OK for me to speed. I pay a lot of things so it’s OK for me to accept the wrong change for a purchase and not return the excess. And so on and so on. After a while our moral borders can get pushed out pretty far – moral relativism.
I suspect that the battle against moral relativism is constantly waged in most people’s lives. A key to winning that battle, or at least fighting the good fight, is to have a solid moral foundation to begin with. For most that begins in the home and is reinforced and strengthened in the church and in school. The natural tendency of children to seek acceptance and to strive to understand what is right and thus worthy of parental, clerical or teacher praise is a powerful building block of a good moral compass. Sometimes the fact that parents understand that their children are looking at them and their behavior can also be a great influence on the parents to do the right things.
So, parents; reject moral relativism and do the right things in front of your children and in life in general. If you need help with this, there are many books that have been written by great philosophers about morals and human behavior; but, perhaps the best book to start with is the Bible, one of the greatest books every written to guide one into doing the right thing. Start there and you can’t go wrong.