So What Is Morality, Anyway?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

THERE it was. One of those questions parents struggle through. This parent, who has spent a big chunk of her life grappling with certain aspects of morality, felt her stomach squirm right up into her throat!

"For instance . . . ," my sixteen-year-old-daughter candidly continued. She explained that some of the kids at her school lie, cheat, steal, and backstab people, but then call other kids immoral because they smoke or drink or have sex with someone they love. "I know kids who are in love or who have had some problems with drugs or drinking, and they are really good people," she said.

I tiptoed through a relatively neutral explanation of morality-just enough for me to feel I'd kept the lines of communication open. (Parents know especially what I'm talking about here; a long monologue on the virtues of the Ten Commandments can have a pathetically low survival rate among many people these days, especially young people.) My daughter knew that to kill, lie, steal, or cheat is obviously not right, as the Ten Commandments make clear. But there were gray areas of behavior that were tougher judgment calls for her.

Later, I took the time to think about morality further. I asked God, in prayer, point-blank, what the heart of morality is. Then I listened for Him to guide me.

It came to me that morality is obedience to the law of good. The core of all goodness, according to Jesus Christ, is in the two great commandments God gave Moses-to love God, and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. When people live according to these laws, they bring into daily lives the good effects of peace, harmony, kindness, order, integrity, freedom-all the qualities that express God. This makes sense, because God is the source of good.

I once heard someone sum up morality by saying something to the effect that it promotes the highest good for the greatest number of people, and involves setting selfish impulses aside. You might argue that that morality doesn't sound like much fun. I know some people think of the Ten Commandments as a set of confining rules that restrict freedom. But as we can see from the effects they bring when they are followed, these are really laws God makes for our protection and peace of mind.

Is there a universal right and wrong? Well, consider this: morality goes beyond mere human doctrine. The moral code can be seen as guiding men and women to honor God by expressing honesty, integrity, selflessness, compassion, wisdom, and temperance. As one's understanding of God grows and matures, clearer and clearer views follow of what the best thoughts and actions are. We can always ask God for the wisdom and clarity of thought to guide our actions.

This could be called the "Solomon prayer." The Bible says in the book of First Kings that, after Solomon was made king, he turned to God and prayed, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad" (3:9). That's not a prayer that beseeches God for a new, pat, black-and-white regulation to dictate each specific circumstance; rather, it is a petition for true wisdom.

In this light, true morality is not a regulation. It is rather a receptivity and obedience to divine guidance. Then, when confronted with moral choices of any kind, we can turn to God for actual answers to even pressing dilemmas. If our choices show a love for God, ourselves, and others, we can be pretty sure we've made sound moral choices.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, observed, "Moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving." This is from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 125). If this is the case, the moral law is a protection, not a restriction!

I asked my daughter a few weeks later if she had given any further thought to what morality was. She confidently replied, "I think it means to do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . you know, the Golden Rule." (I knew God would reveal it to her!)

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