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Thoughts – My Morality Is Different From Your Morality

Each person or society forms its own principles of morality in accordance with its culture, religion, environment, and such other factors. What passes off as morality is only the mental frame of beliefs and convictions of an individual or a group of individuals against which all actions, external and internal, are matched. If some actions fit the relevant frames well, one feels good; if not, one is disturbed.

At the same time, there are thousands of values in any society, and not every value is picked up by every person. The set of values practised by an individual is his or her personalized value system, which becomes the real framework of his or her life. All inputs from the external world, and also the individual’s actions, are made to conform to this framework.

Unfortunately, many values are not chosen but imposed on the individual. These imposed frames
become mere fillings for that person, matters of secondary importance. This is at the root of all personality disintegration, since one has to act not in conformity with what one believes to be right, the real frames of one’s mind, but to a set of imposed fillings. In most cases, even the concerned person does not realize this incongruity.

However, it is easy to recognize if a particular morality is a person’s own or is imposed from outside.
If someone commits an act contrary to expectations but does not repeat the action, then it is a
sign that this person is either modifying a wrongly established morality or discarding an imposed one. If the action is repeated, then it is likely to be a part of that person’s personality trait.

When one attempts to modify or replace a morality, there may appear inner and outer resistance. People may criticize, blame, or laugh. But if the moralities are the correct ones, one’s consciousness remains free from tension and guilt feelings.

Morality themselves are not as rigid as we might suppose them to be. A regular exposure to an
act may change a morality and it becomes accepted as the new standard. We often tend to change moralities by indulging in actions we once considered taboo. The vestiges of old moralities may however continue to exert their influence, though to a lesser degree. For example, a person who is educated to be honest but later becomes corrupt and accepts corruption as a way of life, may try to encourage his or her children not to take to this slippery path.

We tend to brand persons as immoral or insensitive when their acts fail to fit in our own moral standards. An interesting case is provided by those who, though themselves indulging in certain acts, condemn the same in others. We may try to pass them off as hypocrites, but actually they may not be so. The explanation may lie in the moral structure. When people condemn others, although themselves guilty of the same faults, it often means that they feel bad about their own wrong actions. If this feeling is not present, then they may be fairly judged as having double standards.

Source – Prabuddha Bharata Magazine October 2008 issue – article titled Frames and Their Fills
by Swami Samarpanananda.