Why Be Moral?

"A good conscience fears no witness, but a guilty conscience is solicitous even in solitude."


"Whatever path of action you find that brings good and happiness to all, follow this way like the moon in the path of the stars."

Buddha's Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield

Each of us faces moral choices every day. Some of them are big. Most are small. Many are ambiguous. As children, we learned to do good and avoid bad because our elders told us what was good and what was naughty. We deferred to authority.

We also learned that good behavior has its rewards and bad behavior its punishments. For some of us, being good had to do with fear of punishment. We obeyed the rules because if we did not, we might be punished. This line of thinking may have led to a conclusion that, "If I won't get caught, I can do what I want."

Taking a step up on the stairway of moral development, we learned to behave well to avoid harming others. This demonstrated our capacity for compassion. It may, however, have allowed us to rationalize that, if nobody gets hurt, anything is allowed. "If it feels good, do it," was a battle cry in the sixties. An appealing notion at first, but fraught with long term hazards.

Once we developed a strong sense of self, we may have used our personal integrity to guide our behavior. We may have faced a choice and said, "This would not hurt anyone, but I'll not do it because I'm not that kind of person. I won't betray my own sense of myself."

When we become attuned to the world of the spirit, another layer of moral imperative emerges. Finally, we behave as we do because we have begun to perceive our place in the great swirling mystery of causation in the universe. We can see that our lives are guided by a subtle combination of our own intention, synchronicity, and divine forces beyond knowing. The realization dawns that sin is what we do when we take ourselves out of alignment with those forces. When we have made the choice to live in accord with our special purpose in life, and have trusted the universe to support us in that choice, it becomes critical to live impeccably. We come to know that when we betray our purpose we lose our place in the order of things. The pain of knowing we could lose our sense of purpose and lose the relationship we have developed with spirit becomes a strong new motivator for ethical behavior.


Reflect on your life and the moral decisions you tend to be faced with. How do you approach those decisions?

Which of the following statements most closely reflects your typical ethical decision making stance?

How do you know when you are getting off track?

How can you become more sensitive to your internal signals that you are betraying your own integrity or moving out of the flow of divine spirit?


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© 2002 Tom Barrett