I remember teaching moral issues long ago, when I tried to impress upon the sophomore class the subtleties in making a moral decision. Right and wrong, good and bad are never really black and white, rather exist in often the subtlest shades of grey. I don’t think they could quite get their heads wrapped around the concept, perhaps it was that the examples I gave weren’t very good, like distinguishing between taking a pen from someone’s desk or locker without asking, or the last piece of pie when you’ve already had your share. Most scoffed at how stupid I was being, and rationalized quite sensibly, that a pencil is only worth a couple of pennies, or the person would never miss it, or justify that the person excluded from the pie really didn’t need it after all and they were just doing them a favor. What I was unable to convey, even after I thought I stated it pretty clearly, is that moral behavior, in large part, is built by developing an ability to distinguish between shades of grey….and the way to do that is one decision at a time, regardless of how simple or inane they might appear. What can I say, I was young…and wanted them to understand that as adults, we are an accumulation of choices just like these. If the first impulse is to justify in your mind why an action is morally ok to serve any “want” at the time then it is a clear indication that your gut is telling you that it may not be. I learned throughout the years from very wise people, to simply take a moment to weigh my options…which in truth most often takes a few seconds. Asking before borrowing something or choosing not to be greedy only increases our souls acuity to recognize shades of grey. Our brains also help us continue on a moral path by creating neuro-pathways, or shortcuts to respond to situations like the ones mentioned automatically after we repeat a certain behavior after awhile. I guess that is why bad habits are so hard to break…just ask my family…it’s to the point that whenever I even open my mouth to speak their eyes roll back into their heads, and I guess I can’t blame them. For now it is safer to opine in cyber space.
I fear in this time, we may be losing the ability to distinguish between shades of grey and the world is growing darker. I don’t know if its because there is so much corruption, rationalized behavior, and greed that we’ve accepted that the growing darkness is inevitable (or it’s someone else’s fault), or if it’s because up against such darkness it is easier to look so much better in comparison. We do live in morally dubious times, and I think the place to start cleaning up all the pollution begins with our own choices…not necessarily the ones involving pencils and pie, but the ones that trigger the rationalization response. I know I’ve had a hard time taking my own inventory when there are so many who don’t, but it has to start somewhere. And I know that I am in no position to throw stones, but do hold myself obligated to develop my own moral acumen…because too many of our leaders and movers and shakers in our world don’t…and why the saving of the world may very well be left in the hands of us ordinary folk…one choice at a time.
I also know that I have my faith in God to help me walk in the world as a moral woman, and not because I can quote scripture or have accepted Jesus into my heart, or because I’m playing on the right team. While it’s true I’ve accepted the great gift of grace, the way that gift plays out in my life is this core belief: that God is love and has imbued me with the Spirit to love in the same way. Often my attempts are messy, and I make mistakes…but I also have faith that God knows my unique heart, and appreciates my particular spin on the greatest force known to humankind.