Some people think you learn the difference between right and wrong in some magical way. Others think schools or houses of worship are where morality and values should be taught. The truth is, if you don’t accept responsibility for shaping the moral character of the next generation, you’re leaving it all up to chance.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
Morality affects everything we do. Morals and values are the fabric that binds us together, creating an orderly, civilized society from chaos and anarchy. If we don’t distinguish right from wrong the truth will become debatable, intolerance will become acceptable, greed will run rampant, and laws won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.
Morals are not some abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Principles — or lack of them — are inherent in every action that we take and affect everything that we do. Morality is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact, and political systems stable. Without shared values, marriages break apart, business relationships deteriorate, citizens lose hope, and nations flounder. If right and wrong aren’t explicit, we will become a society in which believing in something greater than yourself will be a rarity.
Wrongs committed by enough people become the norm.
Clarify the Difference Between Right and Wrong
There are several ways to clarify the difference between right and wrong. People are influenced through their upbringing, the company they keep, trial and error, observation, cultural activities, faith, mentors, role models, and social norms.
Despite that, right and wrong aren’t always black and white.
We’re regularly faced with choices that fall in the gray area. Other times, it’s clear as day. As William Penn, the English writer, said, “Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”
Truth is not a popularity contest.
Some of the many ways to remain on course:
Your conscience. Follow your North Star. Care not only about where life is taking you, but about how you’re getting there. Listen to your conscience. That’s why you have one.
Feedback. Feedback should be welcomed –– even if it hurts. It enables you to learn about your shortcomings and take corrective action.
Discipline. If you notice behavior that you don’t want your kids to mimic, send your message of disapproval loud and clear. Don’t let your silence be mistaken for approval.
Rewards and punishments. If good behavior isn’t rewarded and poor behavior isn’t frowned upon, it’s easy to forget the proper way to behave. Furthermore, we must apply those ideals in a fair, objective, and consistent manner.
Consequences. Some folks believe that we should address big offenses but let small infractions slide. The problem with that line of reasoning is that we become desensitized to wrongdoings over time.
Make yourself proud. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you meet the expectations of others; what counts is that you meet your own standards. So set the bar high, live your life with integrity, and make yourself proud. After all, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
Virtue isn’t demanding more of others; it’s expecting more of yourself.
Just as the number 6 can be viewed as 9 based on perspective, the same is true of other things. That’s why it’s important to remain open-minded, see things from another point of view, foster debate, and encourage others to challenge your opinions. In addition, obtain information from various sources, seek input from people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, and evaluate that input based on its merits rather than on whether it conforms to your way of thinking.
Follow Your Moral Compass
Our society has standards of acceptable behavior. But the rules of decency are meaningless if they aren’t reinforced daily. When parents overlook bad behavior, when leaders look the other way, when citizens let their conscience hibernate, it’s easy to become desensitized to poor behavior blurring the difference between right and wrong.
Be a role model who leads by example every day. Be the person who lives with honor and integrity, commands everyone’s respect, and makes decisions based on what’s right rather than what’s convenient. It won’t always be popular. It won’t always be easy, but you can take great pride knowing that you’re setting the standard for excellence. The result is that the next time anyone wants to know the difference between right and wrong, they won’t have to look far. You symbolize it!
Check out Franks NEW book, Leadership by Example: Be a role model who inspires greatness in others
Do You Know the Difference Between Right and Wrong?
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