Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Questioning morality

My last blog and the public response lead me to an overarching question about our interpersonal relationships: should we judge and/or question the actions of our friends and family on moral grounds?

Part of me says no, that I should care about them regardless of their opinions/actions, that it is not my responsibility nor role to lecture them on morality. I mean, discussing ethics is in general a touchy subject, and to argue someone's individual choices on moral grounds even more so. Ethics aren't always clear cut, and it's a sticky situation when one tries to decide absolutely ethical and unethical behavior for others. Besides, the last thing I want to do is define moral standards for someone else, or threaten to revoke my friendship if they have a differing opinion.

Yet the other part of me knows that we often regret our decisions after we've thought about them more, that living up to our moral ideals is difficult and not always clearly defined, and that sometimes one needs that outside voice to see the big picture. I have mixed feelings toward religious Christian circles and the roles they play in defining appropriate behavior for others. Yet there's something admirable about a group that legitimately cares about whether an individual's actions are moral and just. It's my understanding that by committing to such a group, you gain a network that will actively make sure your actions reflect the ethical and religious code you believe in. Granted this may be abused to preach religious ethics to those who don't seek that kind of feedback, or to quash differing biblical interpretations, but outside of that abuse, it's an interesting idea. An external conscience to help you strive to be a better person is, at least in theory, a nice thing to have.

I guess my question is actually two-fold: should we internally judge our friends/family based on the morality of their actions, and if we do, should we share these judgements with those being judged?


Evan said...

Well ethics, morals and values help define our charachter. And it is the chatachter of people that interest us in them, wanting to be friends, etc? So surely hanging around with people with whom you do not share the same ethics, morals and values is tough ... unless opposites atract? I like to define my ethics, morals and values outside of the realm of religion but I am probably in the minority in this country and the world as a whole!

Matthew said...

i agree entirely with evan. additionally, i struggle with people who act morally because religion has been drilled into them, especially those who follow the rules to be rewarded or avoid punishment.

as for the second question, i think it depends on your relationship. you can't go around telling everyone how to act all the time, but if people close to you are acting in ways you find objectionable, i don't see why you wouldn't discuss it. that's what you do on this blog anyway, isn't it?

Kirk said...

Well said by Evan. If there is something that bothers you about the moral choices and actions of another, it will be reflected in their personality and will be a barrier to your relationship with that person, and perhaps should be. Also, I respect those who take a stand and share their opinion and rationale for their stance. That respect, often times, allows me to be good friends with a person that does not share my views. At the same time, I also value having an open-mind and a willingness to listen. After all, controversial topics are controversial for a reason.

As for the other part of your question: if the person is secure enough in their choices then they should be able to discuss this and share their perspective. However, like Matthew said, it depends on the person and their relationship to you. They probably will not be very close to you to begin with if you have trouble talking about issues and ideals such as those that you blog.

Moshe Jacobson said...

If the person in question is your friend, and you believe they should change their behavior, then try to offer your opinion as a piece of advice backed by sound reason. Make sure they know that you are not judging them. Don't ever nag them about it unless then issue will threaten your friendship. Not only is this irritating to most people, but it also rarely has any positive effect.

Crazy Guns said...

I say not to Judge them at all. Unless you have to, to protect yourself.

The problem with most people that judge is that they don't know what the other person has been through. Also I find that people that are big on judging others haven't done anything interesting in their life. It's like they are walking down a narrow hallway with doors that they never go into. Then people that peek into the door (news...politicians...talk shows...churches...synagogues for this blog etc) tell their side of the story. Decisions are made on that.

I believe that chaos and control always even themselves out like bad line calls in tennis. Besides...you can't be successful in anything without selling your soul a bit. You are then presented with four choices. Judge people and lead an uneventful boring life so that you never do wrong. Judge people and open yourself up for hypocrisy when you run into the same decisions later. Have a boring life and mind your business. Have an eventful life and mind your business.

I hang out with may different types of people so it's hard for me to judge...unless of course, I'M being judged...then I'll tell you what I think about your group LOL.