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Time to Teach Morality Again

Call me old fashioned, but I think it's time to start teaching morality again.  You know, like they did in the old days, only without the use of certain devices designed to elicit compliance, such as the rack, chastity belts, and wooden spanking paddles like the one my junior high gym teacher, Mr. Creel, used to carry around like a trophy.

The reason I'm floating this idea isn't because of the really nasty immoral stuff we continually see all around us, stuff perpetrated by rapists, murderers, and Reality TV producers.  Although these folks seem to grab an inordinate share of attention, both from the media and our criminal courts, they represent maybe three percent of the population, and with rare exception they are probably unredeemable. 

No, I'm thinking of a much larger percentage of people, decent folks who really would like to make good moral choices, but for the lack of some quality instruction, they sometimes have trouble distinguishing right from wrong and think nothing of the negative consequences of their actions.

A case in point is Mr. Andrew Lahde, a former hedge fund manager from California who recently made headlines for abruptly closing his operations.  What made headlines wasn't so much that he quit--lots of hedge fund managers have had to quit and look for honest work due to the economic meltdown--but the way he quit.  On his way out the door, Mr. Lahde sent a now widely-circulated letter in which he scorned the "idiots" who run America's biggest financial companies, not to mention the "corrupt" government officials who are supposed to be keeping an eye on them.

Now there's nothing unusual about calling the heads of failed companies such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and AIG idiots.  We're all doing that now (it makes us somehow feel better).  And calling government officials corrupt is nothing new.  What makes Mr. Lahde's comments ironic and, I think, amoral, is that this former hedge fund manager personally made tens of millions of dollars betting on the subprime mortgage collapse.  In other words, he knew the system was flawed and corrupt, so he took advantage of it for his own personal enrichment.  "All of this behavior...only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades," Lahde writes.  "God bless America."

Some commentators I've heard are calling Lahde a hero for telling it like it is.  I don't think hero is the right word.  In my opinion, Mr. Lahde's actions and subsequent analysis reveal a true lack of moral fiber.  He may not have acted immorally, but clearly he doesn't care about right and wrong, which makes him rather amoral.

Which brings me back to my point about bringing back moral instruction--in the home, in church, and in the public square.  Just think if little Andy Lahde at the age of six had been given sound reasons for why good moral choices in our personal lives are much more noble, productiive, and beneficial than bad moral choices. I suspect that Andy had a knack for making money as a kid.  Maybe he was good at talking other kids into giving him their milk money in exchange for a promise of more milk money in the future.  This is where someone who knew Andy and his unusual gift--a parent, a teacher, a pastor or priest--should have helped him to understand that just because he was good at finding people stupid enough to take the other side of his trades, it didn't mean that was the right thing to do.  Maybe a little teaching on the Golden Rule would have helped.

I'm not calling for some kind of organized top down system of moral instruction.  I'm thinking of something much more grass roots.  What if each of us started with the kids we know, and just talked about the benefits of good moral behavior?  We don't need to get preachy or indignant and warn them about the evils of pool halls and tattoo parlors.  We just need to share some really good examples of people who made good moral choices, and why those choices are always better than the bad ones. And let's not forget to share examples of people who made bad choices and then in a moment of clarity, came to their senses, accepted responsibility, and asked forgiveness. Stories of redemption are powerful.

Come to think of it, I have all kinds of examples from my own life, and so do you. They say confession is good for the soul, so why don't we start a little mini-moral crusade by sharing our own stories of redemption with the little ones who look to us for guidance?  You never know what effect this kind of instruction will have.

Tags | Morality

Comments

God bless you!!! YES YES YES!!! It's time for PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, AUNTS, UNCLES, GUARDIANS to step back INTO the lives of their children, seizing teachable moments and yes, even being transparent about their own moral mistakes and triumphs.

Stan, I mostly agree with your remarks, but I have to take exception to your clause which says, "with rare exception they are probably unredeemable."

You know this exactly how? Further, in a Christian blog it seems to be a strange remark. Can it mean that 3% have such bad sins that Jesus could not handle it?

Your doctrine would seem to make murderous Moses, Paul and David people that God could not turn around. Instead, I think decency may not be as widespread as you think, and repentance may be a bit stronger than you suggest.

-Barry

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.