One of the handicaps of being a society of laws is that we use the laws to define the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. We set the line of aspirational behavior at the level or laws. We then often explore how far short of that line we can come without being noticed. The law becomes our highest expectation and we even forgive ourselves for falling short. Ethics and morality are vague concepts not clearly defined and often described through the eyes of the beholders. Those standards elude us and today we seen them drift farther into obscurity.
We could ask, “Where are our moral leaders”? We should not look to institutions. Any moral leaders there must ascend the walls of political correctness to be seen. Our true moral leaders are those of us doing the right thing, often in total obscurity. And what is the right thing, after all? It’s trite but true: we can’t enact morality into law. We can’t even codify all the “principles”. All we can do is catalog actual cases of ethical and moral behavior. We literally make up such behavior as we go along. Each case of doing the right thing is unique. Just exactly what is right is in the eye of the beholder. Moral leadership through preaching so called principles is illusory without reference to the examples.
The law is not our line of aspirational behavior. The law actually is the line of minimally acceptable behavior. That’s the point. When confronted with the moral question, we each should aspire to find the right the right behavior and then act. Each of us can be a moral leader when we see the opportunity. Failing to know what is right is one thing. Failing to act when we see the opportunity leads us to a double fault. We leave the scene excusing ourselves as the one not responsible for the moral leadership. Or, we follow the minimal behavior required by law.
Morality is not too amorphous to define and describe. Countless examples through history paint a clear picture. We’re just not spending enough time observing it. However, observation is only one part of the equation. Having the will to act when given the opportunity and then taking action completes the record. We need not look far to see glaring examples of moral lapses in today’s society. They, too, can teach us. Examples of bad behavior can instruct us as well. Will we learn?