Imagine that one of your clients, who is also a good friend of yours, owes you a good amount of money. You have sent multiple bills, have casually reminded him, and even had an earnest conversation. From your perspective, he seems well off and able to honor his debt. What’s the right or moral thing to do?
Morality is a complex and challenging thing to understand. On the one hand, a society or family can’t function long without a shared moral code. We all support the social norms we believe to be right or just. On the other, we often fight against norms that silence our individual expression. In other words, no one likes to be on the other end of a sermon they didn’t request. In addition, what’s understood as right and wrong actually shifts over time and with changing conditions. Just ask your grandparents.
While the world loves to judge the rightness and wrongness of everything, most of us don’t think about morality too much, nor do we reflect on the nature of our decisions. When we do so, it’s usually motivated by a sense that our life is falling apart. Then we tale a step back, reflect, and seek to make a change. Whatever the change is, it usually involves the development of a new moral code or compass – a set of beliefs, actions, and choices that feel more in alignment with who we want to be – in the hope that our life becomes congruent once again.
If you do a quick scan around the world, you’ll find as many different views on morality as you do cultures. Among these you’ll find benevolent self-interest, the golden rule, the Ten Commandments, karma, a general feeling of right and wrong, the law of the land, the expectations of others, looking out for #1, obeying authority, making it up as you go, and any combination of the above.