Monday, October 4, 2010

Moral Cowardice in the Modern Age

A particularly unpleasant episode in my personal life got me reflecting on morality and moral actions in the modern world. It would appear to me that the modern mind is lacking in the ability to understand that good not only means to avoid evil, but that we are obliged to do good.

Obliged. That is a word we do not hear often these days. And yet it is just as true today that we do wrong not just by commiting evil, but by our omission to do what is right. Helping the poor, telling the truth, even a simple act such as an apology are all obligations that we owe to our neighbor, and to fail in such actions can be just as wrong as doing something wrong.

This simple idea is lost on us I think because we find it is sufficient to simply feel bad about a particular situation. If we have done something wrong as long as we sufficiently torture ourselves with guilt this fulfills our obligation. I feel bad about the poor. Therefore I am a good person. I was a jerk and I feel bad, so I am a good person.

And yet all we really prove is that our conscience isn't so far dead that we can still distinguish between right and wrong. Guilt is simply a vector for us to do good. It is our conscience motivating us to do what is right. To simply feel guilty without actually doing something to fulfill our obligations is not an indication of a moral person, but simply moral cowardice. It is the attempt to feel like a moral person with the need of doing anything right.

It is thus not surprising that the Church calls us to make an act of repentance for what we do not do as much as what we do. In the opening prayer we say, "I have sinned through my own fault, in what I have done and did not do(failed to do)." In her wisdom She calls us to repentance for when we fail to do what we owe to others. For if we do not do what we are called, we will become just as lost as those who do wrong.

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