Founder of Community of Unity
Eric began working professionally youth in 1988, running after-school art programs in New York City while studying Art Therapy at the New School for Social Research. Shortly after he discovered his passion for working with…
Morality Matters
Posted in Parenting Teena... by Eric Komoroff on Dec 12, 2012
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 happen.

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


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Morality is so important and helps me make alot of my decisions. I try to use love as a guide and I believe without morality there is no love.
By harmony2013  Dec 19, 2012
I agree with poster #4. What do you mean by "ritual"? I have no rituals. I live my life from day to day and do my best and, yes, I do fail. However, I admit my failure and seek not to repeat the error. Is this a "ritual"? I honestly can't see how ritual can play a part, unless it is in some faith-based system. I go to churches to watch the "faithful" go through their rituals knowing that they are there to seek while some are only there for absolution so that they don't have to own up to their own moral sense and behavior. So, maybe, you need to address this point about "ritual."
By Anyse  Dec 17, 2012
When I deal with morality, I always have to ask "Whose morality?" As an atheist, I am confronted all too often with the argument that I cannot have "morality." I remember the "godless communists" of my youth and how vilified they were that they did not believe in god and could not have any real sense of honor, respect, courtesy, compassion and more. As far as I have seen in this life, religious morality seems more than empty as it seems to lack the compassion that is so important to any moral system. So, what happens when we disagree? Can we then agree to diagree with respect, courtesy and honest compassion? I have not seen it much, if at all . . . . Hmmmm . . . .
By Anyse  Dec 17, 2012
Missed that last part about does one have a culture that involves rituals for giving back, gratitude or empathy.

Well, does donating to food banks, giving clothes to the needy, telling my friends how dear they are to me, and holding and hugging those who are sad, it is not a ritual. It is part of what I do.
By JenniferGriff  Dec 14, 2012

This poster (me?) discusses morality and ethics.

Thanks for the column. blog?

By JenniferGriff  Dec 14, 2012
A lot of times I wonder if one is born with this sense of what's right and what's wrong or if its something learnt from the surroundings.

I honestly dont know from where I get my opinions of things. Try to use logic as much as possible. Humanity is my aim. Believe that the way I treat myself reflects on the my treatment to others and in turn reflects on a wider range of people.

The goodness of mankind is morality to me.

As much as I feel excited about this topic, as much as I feel unable to GRASP the topic with rational expressions away from emotions.

Morality is just that thing you feel.
By drwho546  Dec 12, 2012
Oh how beautiful reading this article was. I am a believer in the intrinsic self-actualizing capability of EACH one of us, regardless of the age or culture.

I did not get my morality teachings from my family. It was mostly from caring teachers at school. At home I could see how the lack of it did make life very bitter. If that did anything to me it would be reinforcing my solid faith in morality and the love of man kind.
By drwho546  Dec 12, 2012
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