The Complexities of Morality

I am not a moralist.  I do not stand on my soapbox and scream and yell at folk or judge those that do not reflect my standards of morality.  I do, however, have a sound moral code and do hold to this code staunchly.  To this point in life I have assumed that most people have a moral compass that they use to guide them through life and that they stick to their code regardless of the circumstances; this is having character.

To begin our talk on character we must first discuss morality and the incredibly complex philosophical problems trying to define morality presents.

Morality is easy to discuss when dealing with the “big” issues that most agree are wrong: murder, stealing, rape, arson, 8kidnapping, etc.  But as we move away from the core beliefs of right and wrong, the perimeter becomes hazy, more grey than black and white.  And it is in this area that comes much confusion and division.

To some any violation of ethics is unacceptable, while others view life as a series of moments that require new judgment and discrimination; that each individual situation must be handled on its own merit.  Ultimately, each individual is left to his/her own to make decisions for themselves as to what they deem to be immoral.  I am referring to the morals judgments that fall into the grey area.

Take adultery as an example.  There are those that view adultery as completely immoral and would never consider having an affair.  On the other hand, I have taken part in discussions in the past with people that do not view adultery as harshly as I and do not view those that commit adultery as having done anything too terribly awful.

The research I conducted on adultery shows that 57% of men and 54% of women polled admitted to having had an affair (  I thought these numbers were inflated, but 4 other sites I researched reflected the exact same numbers from a pool of thousands and thousands of people.  So even if the people committing adultery view adultery as immoral, they do not see it as bad enough to keep them from having an affair.

I am not sure if society will ever be able to come to a consensus on what is right and what is wrong as it relates to this grey area.  Some view certain things as terribly immoral acts while others do not.  So where does that leave us?

After all, it ultimately is left up to the individual.  Adultery is not an offense that will land one in jail, but that does not mean it is justifiable.

Some people do not view lying as immoral.  This is probably based on societies acceptance and use of “white lies” which we have discussed in the past.  In my life I try to speak the truth, even if the truth is difficult for the person to hear.  I will take a few moments and find a way to speak the truth without coming across in a hurtful manner; often times posing the truth in the form of a question.  But I try to speak the truth nonetheless.  So I view lying in most forms as a problem.  In my opinion, telling white lies as a habit can lead one to accept that certain lies are okay, whereas, we should practice speaking the truth, in my opinion.

So as individuals and as a society we are constantly judging immoral actions based on the severity of the infraction.  Even the Bible, Koran and other ancient religious texts have statements of morality that we have judged to be outdated or too stringent for practical every day living.

For instance, Jesus states in the Bible that if a man looks at a woman lustfully that he has committed adultery.  The statement is black and white, cut and dry, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that most Christians in my life smooth the edges of this teaching considerably as it seems too harsh and restrictive.  To make it make sense most will move to site the intent behind the message and deemphasize the literal statement.

So how are we to come to any resolution on what is moral and immoral?  Plato discusses morality at length as have most philosophers and religions throughout history, but no one has developed a clear cut definition of what is moral and what is immoral.  Like I said earlier, it comes down to the individual following what that person knows to be right and wrong regardless of the circumstances.

Which brings into the discussion an entirely new issue: what if the individual was not raised in an environment that provided a consistent code of morality?

Hopefully you can see how complex the concept of morality can become!

I started writing this post as a lead in to having character, but it with off the rails a bit because I cannot justify inside my mind leaving morality up to each individual while at the same time not being able to find any definite moral example to follow in all instances; this example simply does not exist.

So the only conclusion that I am left with is each individual must make the best decisions that he/she is capable of making based on the understanding that person has of morality.  Once again I am referring to the grey areas not the absolutes of murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, etc.

I am unable to tie a bow on this post, tidy it up and present it to you with a conclusion.  I will have to spend more time reading and in contemplation.

Big Dreamer


22 thoughts on “The Complexities of Morality

  1. I consider myself to be a good and moral person, yet I have sinned. I an not perfect and don’t claim to be. I figure one sin does not a sinner, immoral person make. I have asked for forgiveness for my sins. And if I believe in God than I have to believe that he has forgiven me.

  2. This is an interesting topic that has been discussed in our household many times without any clear-cut answers that everyone agreed upon…being “true to one-self” has pretty much been the outcome in a nutshell..but even that has its gray areas 🙂

  3. Besides the absolutes of murder, etc. that would land a person in jail, adultery to me is on top of the list that I deem immoral. Adultery is also betrayal.

    1. I agree with you. However, even today I have received several messages expressing the belief that adultery is not too bad when compared to other acts.

      1. It will not land the adulterer in jail. But it’s life-changing. It breaks families, and all others that are connected to the families . It would be better to divorce the spouse than betray the partner in secret. Adultery is betrayal . I feel very strongly about this.

  4. This is a rather difficult subject to really decide on. We all accept that adultery is wrong, yet, it is a common occurrence even though it wreaks havoc in lives as well. Hmm, we bend our values and ethics to fit our grey matters

    1. Precisely my point! Morality, or at least the way society defines morality, changes with time. That makes it very difficult to discuss and impossible to define.

      1. Well said. As a matter of fact, as society changes, those who stick to the old-fashioned traditions, ethics and values are viewed as bigots 🙁 I fail to understand that at times Thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

  5. This is definitely something that I have pondered as well. Mostly because I am the type of being that likes to sit back and observe others (not in a creepy way lol). I am not one to jump in on a convo or even stir up one with people, I guess I am more of a lone wolf… This has had its positives though because it allows me to study how so many different people have opposing views on morality. What is more interesting though, is how few people even think of the importance morality has in the society we live in.

    I like how you raise the point if one had not been brought up to know morality at all, although I can not think of an example of a human in todays or past time that was not taught morality, I think that animals would be our closest bet. We do not necessarily teach our pets to be “moral”.. if anything we train them to make our lives easier i.e. potty training. I can not think of someone who spends countless hours teaching their pet fish the ins and outs of morality. Maybe this is why animals in all forms always kind of seem lost and careless to me. They do not know and can not show morality… so they live empty.

    I do also completely agree with you on the point where beings will never all disagree or agree with what it just or unjust. Mainly because, as you mention, everyone has that ability to decide for themselves on whats right and wrong. Even if we had a law stating “Everyone must feel happy on tuesdays” people could always play the part, but not truly be. After all, if we as a whole society could actually and completely agree on morality, we’d find ourselves living in a type of Utopia…

    Great Topic!

    – Truth Seeker

  6. I think people follow their emotions more than anything and then attempt to rationalize them.

    Adultery is an interesting example. What exactly is adultery? I am sure everyone has a different definition. Is it simply physical relations? How about emotional? What are the lines? I guess it depends on what you view as “crossing the line.” I’ve often felt that emotional bonds are more difficult to break than physical ones.

  7. Morality is highly subjective and is usually anchored on belief, culture, and traditions of a group of people. One may find something moral while others may see it as immoral. Morality as we know today is not universal and also not eternal.

    I only have one rule, “do unto others what you would want them do unto you..”! 🙂

  8. Morality is always said to be quite a subjective topic, in studying various theories I find there are absolutes which are undeniable but it’s hard to get all to commit, I really liked this post 🙂

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