Rarely in our lives do we find ourselves discussing the fundamentals of morality. Issues
of morality, on the other hand, are always on the table. We engage, for example, in water cooler conversations about this or that scandal the media is currently force feeding us. I propose we spend our time at the water cooler on something a little deeper than a General's sex life. How about the deeper discussion about what morality is and how it develops?
So what is morality? As I described on Youth Empowered
this week, I think of morality as an evolving personal code – the way we choose to act, which is aligned with a belief system that we develop over time. Like a rudder that keeps us balanced in life. If I don’t know what to do in a situation, my personal code can inform my choices.
Without a moral compass it would be difficult to decide what the right course of action in any given situation is; from something as small as how to respond when someone mistreats you, to bigger issues like how to raise your children and what to do with your life. Everyone has a moral compass - it’s the nature of each individual’s morality that differs from person to person.
If you reflect on the recent coverage of, for example, the wars our nation has participated in, the rampant dishonesty we witnessed during the recent presidential election, or the handling of Hurricane Sandy by our elected officials, it becomes clear that the mainstream media does not offer much room for deeper discussions on these important issues.
Instead, the media offers a perfect illustration of how opposing moral perspectives view the various issues of the day—think MSNBC versus Fox, tolerance vs. traditionalism. The exact same issues are often covered on both networks, but you’d hardly know it. Without a larger conversation of morality to ground us, it’s as if we’re speaking different languages.
Now, as traditional means of inculcating morals into children like church, family and the like have become less relevant, the conversation becomes that much more complex, and much more vibrant. Yet somehow, without the traditional support systems that we adults had growing up, young people are continuing to navigate their moral landscapes successfully. They seem to be moving further and further away from traditional ideas of morality, and into less rigid views of right and wrong.
Still, I’m convinced that we must ensure that a conversation about morals, however complex or different from what we experienced growing up, does
I have faith that many young people will successfully determine the direction of their personal moral compass, but I don’t think it’s an easy process, or a process that cannot be supported through the conscious presence of an aware and invested adult. And there are those young people who would not go on to develop this deeper understanding without that support.
That being said, it is imperative that we remember, in our process of supporting young people in developing their morality, that words are just words unless they’re followed up with behavior. We must treat young people with respect in order that they may internalize and translate that respect into the way they treat others. If we accurately consider them to be sheltered, we must consciously expose them to the reality of disparity and suffering. We must model and teach gratitude. We must reflect on our own moral missteps, when they occur, and we must discuss the complexities of forgiveness.
A wonderful place to begin is to consider the value of ritual in your own life. Do you have a culture in your family, classroom, or mentorship space that involves rituals for giving back, gratitude, or empathy? Is there a particular way that you choose to consistently respond to the multitude of moral issues that arise in your life? How do you model that to young people?
I'd love to hear how you and your family address morality.
Lets learn from each other.
- Erik Komoroff
RELATED FROM AROUND THE WEB