Regardless of the individual issue, you consider yours to be the right side, the morally superior one. The stance that you take isn’t a decision that’s arbitrary or taken lightly, you hold the beliefs that you do for a reason. The family and culture you were brought up in, the age you live in, your religious faith or lack thereof, your natural instincts and your personal experiences, wants and desires all work together to create your own personal moral code. You hold tight to the knowledge that your beliefs are on the good, right and moral side of the issue and therefore anyone with an opposing view is automatically bad, wrong and often evil. Moreover, since you’re morally right then they are clearly immoral and deserving of ridicule, discipline, ostracization and all out hate.
But if our beliefs are subjective to our individual history and experience, how can we ever really know which one of us is right? Is there an intrinsic right and wrong, a clear moral code and if so, how can we know what it is when we all disagree? And if there isn’t, if morals are simply a matter of each of us deciding to do what we believe to be right then how can we ever learn to live together peacefully without forcing our morality on somebody else?
I don’t have any answers here, just some questions and ideas that I think could help us when facing this topic in our increasingly volatile and divisive culture. It is estimated that there are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world right now and that more than 108 billion people have lived on Earth since the beginning. No two people have the exact same life experience so that’s 7.5 billion different lives being lived at this moment, each one shaping the moral code of the individual. What is considered right in the US may look completely different than anywhere else in the world, and what’s right today was considered an obvious wrong in the past. Who’s to say what the world of tomorrow will look like and how that will affect our beliefs?
The danger of moral indignation is that it closes off all conversation with anyone who thinks differently. Why converse with someone immoral, they’re not worthy of your time, effort or attention, right? They’re ignorant, small minded, too liberal, too conservative, too wrong to even engage. But what does that solve except further divide? Shouldn’t we seek first to understand each other and the source of our beliefs? I suggest that having a simple, honest conversation and learning about each other would teach us that we’re far more alike than we are different. Taking an honest look at what we believe and why, then openly listening to the ideas and experiences of others is so much more productive than crossing our arms and standing firm with only those that think and look just like us. There’s no growth in that, no advancement for any of us. What if you have something crucial to share with them or if what they share with you turns your absolute conviction inside out? This is not to say that you should just frivolously change all of your beliefs, of course not. But consider this: rather than label someone as being on the wrong side of morality and discount anything they have to say because you think your stance is morally superior, why not instead be open to the possibility that you’re both a little wrong, a whole lot right and together you can discover a truth far more remarkable than either of you understood before?
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