How Moral Should I Be

I worry a lot about wasting time. Part of it is my upbringing, I’m sure. I was raised to strive for moral perfection, to always be anxiously engaged in our Lord’s cause, to push as hard as I can and then push a little more. I doubted many things early, but not that moral work ethic. Never that.

This mindset is not exactly helpful when my goal is to flow with the rhythm of the seasons and the harmonies of family life, but it’s a deeply rooted impulse and so far very resistant to change. My goals have changed radically over the years, but my moral perfectionism, not so much.

A couple weeks ago, though, I read something that’s really got me wondering. In a comment thread about ethical systems (and how useless they can be for day to day life), someone asked “how moral should we be” in any given situation? It’s such a basic question, and so thoroughly ignored by pretty much everyone I’ve read or listened to.

How moral should I be? The most moral. Moral to the power of ten. Just give me like, all the morality. Right? What kind of monster wouldn’t want that? A huge part of me strives for this, even though I know it’s not possible.¬†Principles are complicated things to live in the real world, and living one principle to the max often means living others to a lesser degree. Improving one part of myself might leave others neglected, while striving for perfect balance might make me rigid and unable to move. We decide all the time “how moral should I be,” whether we know we’re doing it or not. I decide this all the time, all while obsessing over my need to do more and better at every single thing.

Which leads me to my minor epiphany, the one that might help me with my perfectionist problem. I realized that this striving I was taught, this constant effort to do All The Moral Things, is really a way to avoid decisions and set priorities. It’s a great attitude if you’re part of an end-times church that wants to set your priorities for you, but it’s not suited for excellence and fulfillment in this life.

It’s not that I’m haunted by damnation, though. I’m haunted by the promise of transformation. Part of me still believes that I need to be remade into something better than human, that we all need to transform the world into something better than it is. I thought I knew better than that by now. I thought I was all about dealing with this live and this world as it is. In my head I am, but my heart, as always, is lagging behind. Now that I realize, maybe I’ll make better progress bringing the two together.

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