Source of Morality 2/16/20

Ponderances by Richard Bleil

Today a question has been circling my mind about, frankly, myself. I am wondering what, exactly, the source is for my morals. As you might recall, morals are a personal set of guidelines to live by. Personally, I like to think of myself as a highly moral person, but the thing that makes me wonder is because of what I thought was the source of them.

I’ve always assumed that my morals came from my father. I always believed that my morals came from my father, but the more I think about it, I don’t see how that could be. My father always held me to high standards, but his morality seems to be contrary to mine.

Apparently, my mother had a wonderful relationship with my sister, presumably because they had similar…organs. By this logic, my father should have been the one to deal with me, but he really wanted to have little, if anything, to do with either of us. So, I was more or less left on my own. Still, though, somehow, I developed my sense of morals.

Before going on, though, let me tell you a few examples of when I came to realize that my morals could not have come from my father. The last time I saw my father (quite some number of years ago), the state of Ohio (where he lives) was considering requiring regular car safety inspections. He shocked me when he railed against this idea, saying his car his business. I countered what I thought would be an open and respectful discussion saying that a dangerous vehicle puts the general public at risk, especially pedestrians, so the law was the ethical thing to do. He countered with something like “my car, my choice” and “I rest my case”. He refused to hear any further thoughts from me.

This “I’m right you’re wrong” approach was all too common when I was growing up. He is racist, has advocated for poisoning marijuana to kill drug addicts, pokes fun at people for their body image, and generally is just the opposite of me. Politically he’s aligned with a party (I’m guessing my readers can guess which but that’s immaterial) not because he thinks of what they do but because it’s his parent’s party. This just is completely alien to me.

So, if I didn’t get my morals from my father, from where do they come? I had a born-again colleague who insisted that morality must come from Christianity because, in his argument, all morals come from Christ. We even got into an argument as he insisted that I must also be Christian because of my morals. I was raised Methodist (which I now disown because of their stance against homosexuality), but I can tell you that all I ever got out of church was bored. I enjoy reading the philosophical works of various faiths, and have a great relationship with God, but I don’t align myself with any particular religion. So, I doubt that my morality originated from any given church or faith.

Could empathy be a source of morality? I didn’t have an easy childhood. I was raised by an emotionally abusive father, the consistent target of bullying in school, treated unfairly and more. I was never physically or sexually abused, so I find it difficult to put myself into a category of abuse because I know it could have been far worse. Although, interestingly enough, the abuse I did suffer was downplayed in a truly textbook fashion as my mother would frequently say “if you think you have it bad here, you can always leave and see if you can find something better.” Today, I have a strong preference to take the pain of others rather than letting them suffer, especially because of any action of mine. Where I often have lunch, they have an experimental crispy chicken club sandwich, available for a limited time only at this one location. When I walked in, there was somebody at the counter that was taking significant time, which doesn’t bother me at all. I’m very patient, quite possibly because I was shown such little patience myself when I was growing up. When she finally left to sit down, I walked up to the counter, sure there was nobody behind me, and began to order “the wonderful one location only temporary amazingly delicious…” which is about the time that I realized that somebody had come in behind me. I felt horrible wasting this person’s time by making what was meant to be a silly order meant to make the person behind the counter smile. I quickly ordered (which actually adds to the confusion because the person behind the counter was new and it took her a very long time to figure out how to input my order in the cash register), and apologized profusely, multiple times, for wasting time to the woman behind me.

She didn’t seem pleased anyway.

A friend pointed out that some people turn bitter and hard when they suffer as I did, and others turn soft like me. She asked the difference, and I must admit; I don’t understand what the difference is. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe I’m just a wimp.

2 thoughts on “Source of Morality 2/16/20

  1. Morality is developed through experiences in life. Note I didn’t specific whether it is good or bad morality. The morality is different for each person simply because the experiences and the perception of those experiences are different, The source of a person’s morality is within his or herself.
    I came from a family similar to yours. My father was emotionally abusive and, later on, dealt out a little physical abuse too. My brother was the one who had the bond with our mother, which left me on my own. I rather liked it that way.
    Life is what you make of it.

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  2. Thank you. It’s an interesting observation that you raise. Similar experiences will drive different people towards different sides of the morality spectrum. I don’t know if I successfully conveyed this or not, but that was the original thought that lead to this post. Why do similar experiences drive some people to one side, and others to the opposite side?

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