“Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
— C.S. Lewis
Our bearing on morality has been instilled in us ever since we were children, and due to our upbringing and nurturing, we are told we should behave in a certain way. In fact, we do behave in a certain way because it’s deemed proper, however, personal morality varies from person to person, some stricter than others. If you want to believe you are a good person, you only have yourself to prove to, no one else.
When it comes to basic morality, the nature of social evolution has dictated that we have to act in a certain way, and as long as it promotes a certain level of safety, that’s where the social contract stands. You don’t murder, so you don’t get murdered. You don’t steal, so you don’t get stolen from. This is why laws were made to protect people, essentially your basic human rights. Now that aside, how about personal morality?
Personal morality is not so obvious. It’s the smaller character traits that we acquire. Think of it this way, why do some people find it easier to lie, while others don’t? Why do some people cheat on their spouses while others find it shameful? This is because our bearing on morality is subjective, but most importantly, self-imposed. Some people are very strict and harsh on themselves because they want to be good people. It is only through repeated good behaviour, and a slightly harsh self-imposition that people can become the person they want to be.
One side of the coin says we should always forgive ourselves for mistakes that we make, that we are human, that we are prone to fault. But the other side of the coin says that we should not make excuses for our bad behaviour. This all boils down to how genuine we are at our faults. Mistakes are excusable, but mistakes on purpose aren’t. Other people shouldn’t have to pay for our actions.
What people need to understand about morality is that it is generally, grey. Ask yourself, why would you feel bad if you took candy from a toddler but not downloading music off the Internet? They both are stealing, yet we only seem to care if we can actually see someone get hurt by our actions. Who are we to truly decide what is a victimless crime?
The question that begs to be answered is, is it possible for a person to take a vacation from our beliefs? Think of it this way, a person should be forgivable if they slip up, but not if they repeatedly do it. Own up and apologise and try to make things right. The thing about morality is no one can enforce it upon you, if you are not willing to submit to it. At the end of the day, you have to decide, what you really want out of life, to be the person you are, or the person you want to be.