Morality has always been a super fascinating topic for me. We all have this innate sense of what is right and what is wrong, sometimes our ideas overlap with the ideas of those around us…other times…not so much. Our morals are affected by our culture, our religion, our gender, our traditions, etc, etc. Factor in our life experiences and it’s sort of like those experiments my brother and I used to make using all the food we could find in the refrigerator, mashing it up and tossing it into a big mixing bowl. The results were less than stellar. Even though we’d thrown in a bunch of delicious ingredients (chocolate chips, bananas, ketchup,eggs, orange juice…dishwasher soap) we ended up with a mixing bowl filled with weird brown…clearly inedible goop. Now imagine that bowl is the place we keep our values and morality.
By the time we are adults we feel as if our morals are determined. In kindergarden you probably learned you are SUPPOSED to share, you also probably learned you’re NOT SUPPOSED to hit so you threw those “ingredients” into your “morality bowl“. As we grow up we continue to discover beliefs we view as “right” and of course some we believe are “wrong”. Add all of these ingredients to your mixing bowl and by the time we are adults we have a huge misshapen gooey brown glob of “moral ingredients” to carry around with us.
All of these lessons (ingredients) are “right”, all of these ingredients are “good”…yet there’s a problem. What happens when two “goods” conflict with one another? Chocolate syrup is good! Pickles are good! Baking soda is good! Mix all three together and…voila! I sort of want to vom.
For example, I hold these two facts as both morally sound, and equally truthful:
1) It is wrong to lie to others.
2) You should always stay true to yourself.
Both of these values are pretty great in theory right?! But what if you are faced with the choice of being truthful with the one you love, or remaining true to yourself? Is there a right choice? Is there a better choice?
In the past I have been faced with this very dilemma (shocker). My boyfriend has a major problem with me remaining friends with any of my exes (whether his opinion is correct or incorrect, valid or invalid is mute in this conversation). I have a major issue with deliberately eliminating people from my life. If I’ve shared any part of my heart with somebody I refuse to let go. My reasoning is remain friends (and on good terms) with everyone and anyone whenever possible. You can see where the problem may start to arise.
After dating for just a few months my boyfriend and I faced our first major issue. He didn’t want me to go anywhere I could potentially run into my exes. I didn’t want to be told who I could and couldn’t hang out with. Eek! It felt as if we were mixing pudding and anchovies.
He didn’t understand why I needed to remain in contact with these people.
I didn’t understand why he couldn’t trust me.
He wanted me to sacrifice these friendships for our relationship.
I felt as if this sacrifice symbolized something much larger,it symbolized repression, I felt like a caged bird. The principle of the issue was no longer about guy friends and ex boyfriends, it was about my freedom, it was about my trustworthiness.
The whole situation was a straight up recipe for disaster, we fought hard and we fought often. It seemed as if the situation was a stalemate. Neither of us was receiving what we wanted and we were both emotionally exhausted.
So I made a difficult choice. Rather than continuing to scream, cry, and sacrifice, I chose to lie. I didn’t tell him when I was going to a party my old crush might be at or when my ex texted me. Did I feel guilty? OF COURSE! But I would be lying if I didn’t say a large part of me was also relieved.
I was able to talk to who I wanted, go where I wanted and dress how I wanted without wasting time and energy fighting about it. I was happier because I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my independence, my freedom. But I still felt conflicted.
I never cheated on my boyfriend, or crossed any boundaries whatsoever but lying was making me anxious and keeping me up at night. Even though I knew he would never “find out” the truth, I felt as if the seemingly “harmless” lie was a wedge that would ultimately tear our relationship apart.
I eventually told the truth, and although my boyfriend was hurt and angry and suspicious even (the fact that I lied about who I was and wasn’t hanging out with made it much worse) I think telling the truth was ultimately the best choice for both my moral compass and for our relationship.
Have you ever been faced with a situation that pulls your heart in two separate directions? How do you make a decision when either choice forces you to give up part of what you believe to be “right”?
Oh the woes of growing up!