I get asked a lot about whether I have a moral compass, and if so, how did it come to be. Most people associate morals with a feeling of right and wrong. Their emotional response to a situation dictates for them whether or not to partake, or act.
A lot of people have misconceptions about psychopathy when it comes to morals, but more than that, they have misconceptions when it comes to morality in general. For many reasons, people believe that morality lies in feelings. I personally find this to be a rather shortsighted version of morality, and one without responsibility of any kind.
Due to this belief, that morals require some sort of feeling, has created a few problems when it comes to the understanding of psychopathy, so we shall discuss morals, and also the problems that the misinformation regarding morals creates, likely in the next post, because this one is long.
If morals require feelings, what causes you to act on what you consider a moral responsibility if those feelings are lacking? There are many situations in which a feeling may not accompany a moral situation, and there are many situations in which the feeling accompanying a moral situation are the wrong ones.
Vengeance would be an example of this. Most of the time the thing that might be against your moral compass would arouse a feeling of guilt, preventing you from acting, but in a situation where you have been wronged, not only may that guilt not fire, but righteous anger might in its place. Would you still find terrible action to be immoral in that situation if you are relying solely on your emotional response?
In my case I had to consider each thing that I have that violates my code of conduct. They may have been actions that in the past I took no issue with because of that lack of emotion that psychopaths are known for. It is easy to not stop oneself from acting if the principles that are meant to prevent you, the very ones that you are taught are valuable, are not there.
Interestingly one of the things I did was consider the ten commandments. I was raised in a religious house, so they were the framework for a lot of Sunday school lessons. Now granted, I was repeatedly kicked out of Sunday school because I asked unanswerable questions, but the ten commandments were still a basis for me to consider each one.
I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me
This one really didn’t pertain to me, though I have spent a fair amount of time trying to see the logical purpose of this particular commandment outside of a religious perspective, as I did with all of them. Seeing what each one, as a world or social lesson was trying to impart seemed to be the most logical way of looking at them. I decided that it was about keeping people in line more or less. These things are what God commands, so it makes sense that you would view God in an unapproachable position. A pedestal that could not be matched.
You shall not worship false Gods
This one seemed to be a second version of the first. Slightly repetitive, but whatever.
You shall never take my name in vain
Either repetitive, or perplexing. Maybe it was a thing back when these commandments were handed down to say God Damn it! I have no idea. However, it also always sort of made me smile a bit, and yes, this one got me kicked out of Sunday School.
God is a title in my estimation, not a name. It’s sort of like saying Boss Damn it! Or Supervisor Damn it! I have never seen Adonai Damn it! used, so…I don’t know, I don’t know why using the title of “god” as a curse is really a negative thing, and wonder if it was meant to actually be in reference to the name, and not the title.
Just my random rambling on that one.
You shall keep the sabbath day Holy
I mean… he rested on the Seventh, so I guess we need to. It used to be that when I was a child, doing things on Sunday was in fact prohibited in my family. Not to the extent that we had to sit in a chair and stare at the wall, but still, no friends, no movies (going to or renting) or anything like that. I’m older now, not religious, and this one did not end up on my code of conduct list. None of the ones so far did.
Honor your Father and Mother
Oh… now we get somewhere interesting. What if your father and mother are not worth honoring. Mine are great, but a lot of them are just trash parents, and some kids aren’t lucky enough to survive their childhood with the abusive biological material donors that they had to live with.
Add to that, I’m adopted. So… which parents? The ones that were the biological donors, or the ones that raised me? If both, why both? I am grateful that I am alive, but three things on that.
If God created me, then theoretically my appreciation should go to him, not bio parents or adopted ones.
If it is for simply the act of giving life, while bio parents did manage to do that, and huzzah for them really, but my adopted parents sustained that life for a very long time. Way more than the ten minutes of sex that got me here. Seems like the first set is out of the running for “honor”. Maybe a hat tip, but not honor.
If it is just default to honor parents, if not for the sake of being alive, but for the sake of keeping you alive, then my parents definitely earned that one, for a number of reasons, but the main one being my childhood, and me getting out of it with my head still attached to my body.
Honoring parents I think is a situation that only applies if they earned it, so I had to evaluate if my parents had earned it from me. They had, and more than that they had demonstrated truly honorable things, and that was something that had to be acknowledged. They have given me the basics that I rely on to this day for successful living, and they are all around great people.
How do I honor them then? I am the best version of a daughter I can be, I just suck at calling them. I do for them whatever they need of me. I have been there in very difficult times, especially when dealing with direct threats from my abusive ex brother in law, and I make sure that they are happy. It is important to me, because that is my obligation to them.
And before anyone says it, yes. I do know that calling them more often would make them happy, which is directly contradicting what I just said. I don’t know what to tell you other than, I’m not perfect, and no matter how much I tell myself I am going to do differently, on this one I always fail.
You shall not murder
Now we get into the golden rule territory. This list, other than the worship and honor one god above all others, is basically about the golden rule, and I believe it could have been much easier to have just said:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It seems like a way simpler short form of what we are talking about. I have this thing where I don’t want to be axe murdered in my bed, and the best way to prevent that from happening is?
No, it isn’t not axe murdering other people in their beds.
It’s lock the door at night… it’s... it’s obviously to lock the door… and get a dog, and a gun… maybe an alarm as well.
After that, it’s don’t axe murder other people in their beds. You create the world in which you want to live. This has limits however. I have no qualms about killing when it is necessary. Notice I said “when necessary”, not, when there are no other options. I can see circumstances in which murder is the necessary choice even if I have other options. I have evaluated my position on this one, and murder is not on my “never” list.
You shall not commit adultery
This is about more than just cheating. It is about respect for the other person, honoring your word and your commitments, and holding yourself accountable. I can look at it from historical context, and I can weigh out the notion that the knowledge that your son is your son, and not someone else’s certainly had value, but I don’t think that is where this commandment was going. It was about deeper evaluation of the self, and keeping to your word.
I see value in that. I do keep to my word, and that is because I expect other people to keep to their words. If you say you are going to do something, then you don’t do that thing, I am going to be annoyed with you. If it annoys me to have it done to me, and I create the world in which I want to live, then I can’t be the annoying one, now can I.
This one in particular though is relatively easy for me to adhere to. I have no interest in cheating. Now, I don’t have the emotional hang ups about it, I don’t get jealous, I don’t get possessive, but I do expect a person to honor their word because I am doing the same thing.
Investment for me is time, and it is energy. If I grant that time and energy to a person, I am not going to be interested in also granting it to someone else. I am a very singular focus individual, and some of you might be thinking, aw, how sweet, she focuses on her Significant Other, and to that I say, have you read anything I have ever written? No. The focus is on me. Always me. Putting it on another person is hard. It is intentional action that takes a great deal of effort. I have no interest in that effort being times two.
As for someone cheating on me, that would be a no. It is an immediate, no further discussion, end of investment. As I mentioned, investment for me is a great deal of work. If someone is going to disrespect that work, and by extension me, they are gone. No second chances. Ever.
You shall not steal
Oh did I struggle with this one. I used to steal all the time. I mean, I was good at it, and preferred it to paying because, you know, my money, not theirs. It took my Significant Other to really make me evaluate this one, though I had stopped stealing for the most part by the time I met him. Stealing was easy, I had no qualms about it, I liked stuff, and I could get stuff. For free. What’s not to like?
Then he came around with that annoying cognitive empathy that I lacked a great deal of, and he told me the other side of it. He told me what it is like to work for companies, and deal with theft. Damn him for putting a damper on my fun, and making me have to accept that it did have negative effects, even if I didn’t care about those effects. What happened to creating the world I wanted to live in? Back then I wanted to live in a world where I got free stuff. I had to reevaluate. No more stealing. I could weigh the negatives and positives, and the SO won that one.
You shall not lie
Ha! Ha hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Jordan Peterson has a thing about lying. He does a whole lecture about the damage it does in the world and to your perception of self.
It’s something I have been weighing for a time. I find lying incredibly helpful in my life about various things, and therefore I have pretty decent personal experience in positive net gains from lack of truth telling.
However, I like thinking outside the box and considering the world, at least, abstractly, and the implications of humans’ interaction to a higher degree. His statements about telling the truth basically say that you are responsible for the world around you, and that due to this you should not lie, because lying causes harm.
It’s an interesting argument, and I can see where he’s coming from. I can see the wisdom to his words, and why it is a reasonable position. However, and this is where that psychopathic side of me comes into play, that’s inconvenient to me and that’s difficult for me to justify. My life gets harder for the sake of a larger picture.
That’s a tough sell to me. I do fairly well. I treat people with kindness for the most part, I don’t seek to cause harm, and in my life do a good job of being better than I was yesterday. That’s pretty decent in my mind, and deciding to follow the ‘no lying’ philosophy is not one that I am ready to apply to my life. However, I do rather like that he mitigated the statement by saying;
Or at the very least, keep it to a minimum.
That’s fair, that I can probably do. I have my life set up in such a way currently that it doesn’t require much deception, so, bully for me there.
I think that his statements on the matter are sensical. They are reasonable, logical, and well-backed in the other things he lectures on. I enjoy Jordan Peterson, and his talks quite a lot. I don’t think that I will be living a perfect life anytime soon.
Frankly, I am too self-focused to make the needs of others, and the world at large, to be placed above my own, but hey, look at it this way… If Peterson did manage to get me to live my life for a higher purpose than my own, he would be a bloody miracle worker. It’s not going to happen, but if it did, that would be pretty damn impressive. That would be bully for him.
However, not lying… ever? Nope. Not going to happen. Lying stays. Hell, the mask is lying if you want to get super technical about it. I present a person that doesn’t exist to the world on a daily basis. Since that makes my life way easier, that’s going to stick around.
You shall never want what belongs to others
This is a weird one for me. I don’t experience envy, so I don’t look at something someone else has and want it per se. However, that isn’t to say that I don’t see things that I want, that also happen to belong to others. It seems like God is talking about the experience of coveting, and I think in the original commandment he specifically uses that word. I don’t see someone else’s things and think, ohhhh if only I had that.
Nope, more like, oooo shiny, how can I get that thing. It doesn’t have to be their thing. The other person doesn’t even factor into it. As far as I have been able to decipher, this is about emotional whims. He already said to knock off the stealing, so that isn’t it.
Example time! Don’t you guys just love examples? I do. Besides, you really do need to see this woman’s hair.
Play the video. Play it, you know you want to. Is that not some of the prettiest hair you have ever seen? It is in my opinion, and I quite like long hair. I will never have hair like that. It’s never going to happen, but that’s fine with me. Like two people in the world get to have hair like that, and I am just not one of them.
However, there has never been a part of me that begrudges the fact that she is one of those two. That’s pretty cool, and what’s cooler is that she effectively made hair porn with it, and put it online so we can all marvel at her tresses. Someone I showed this to said,
“Doesn’t it just make you want to cut it all off of her?”
To which I looked at them strangely and said,
“Nooooo? Why would I want to do that?”
Apparently because a somewhat normal emotional reaction to envy is to destroy what the other person has that you do not have. This makes no sense to me. If they have it, and I cannot have it, shouldn’t I still want to see it? I still benefit from it, you know?
To me that is like saying, that woman makes the best chocolate chip cookies, and she won’t share the recipe. Let’s kill her!
But… then there are no more chocolate chip cookies to eat. You see the problem here? Nose to spite face, that kind of thing. It isn’t thinking that I can understand, so while I may see something I want, I have no issue with the person that has what I cannot have.
Morality for me comes down to a logic based system. I, for instance, would not cause harm to someone that cannot defend themselves. Not so much because of their weakness, but because of what it says to me about me. If I need opponents that are so weak as to not pose a threat, it is I who is weak, not them. That to me just makes sense, but that takes thinking about the reason without the emotional reaction.
Everyone has limits, and those limits often are ones that may not even be perceptible until they are considered. Some of them draw a hard emotional response, but no thought has really gone into them, so their boundaries are nebulous. Some of them are mere fairy tales that we tell ourselves, only to be left by the wayside when things get challenging. How we come to our moral compass is a rather interesting process, and I will fully admit that there are many things that I have yet to consider. Perhaps as time goes by, and I consider more points of view, I will change my thinking on things.
A question that is asked of people when trying to determine their stances on things is the death penalty. Many people have strong opinions about it, and I certainly see cases where the death penalty is far too lenient a sentence. However, and this might surprise you, I am fairly opposed to it.
Not for the reasons of it being cruel.
Not for the reasons that someone might be wrongly executed.
Not even because of Blackstone’s Formulation:
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
Though, that is a really good reason, that isn’t it.
I don’t believe that you should give the state the power, under any circumstances, to take your life. If they have the power to do it in one set of circumstances, they are bound to corrupt that stance in order to use it against you in another set of circumstances. Not an emotional judgement, but rather one that is rooted in the observation of the need of the state to seize more and more power for itself. The power over my life, or anyone else’s to exist, should not be one of them.
As it was said in the movie, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”:
“Morals are a choice, and he’ll decide his own when he’s good and bloody well ready.”