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wundayatta's avatar

What incidents influenced the development of your sense of morality?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) September 27th, 2010

I’m sure we could all say parents did this and schools did that and the church did the other thing, and that’s where my sense of morality comes from. That’s not interesting to me. I would like to hear you describe some events in your life that influenced your sense of morality.

I know that for me, the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement and the feminist movement all played roles in developing my sense of fairness. Similarly, a course about Russian history where I had to read the Communist Manifesto helped me develop a sense of humanism that informs my beliefs today about how I should treat others and how we should all treat each other.

Studying Mills in philosophy and learning about game theory—in my reading, I guess—have also been important parts of my moral development. Oddly, I can not think of any personal real life dilemmas that taught me a lesson. It was all from education and historical events. Maybe you have some?

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28 Answers

JustmeAman's avatar

We all create the world for us based on our experiences and our information. I have had so many things that influenced me in my morality and my reality. I have passed away and was brought back, I lost 4 children and helped a social worker for years in helping parents that lost children, I have watched as family have gotten illness’s and I was the care taker for many years of a couple of them, I have watched people wither away until they were almost nothing before passing on and the medical industry kept them alive, after coming back from the dead so to speak I was given a couple of (talents) that have either been a curse or a blessing to me and this but not all have made me create the world for myself as I see it. As we all do, our reality is created by our own experiences, knowledge and learning.

poisonedantidote's avatar

When i was about 5 years old I was playing in the field outside my house, when one of the kids in my building showed up with half a dozen kittens he had found. they where in a card board box just looking up. there where about ten kids all about 4 to 7 years old gathered round the box looking at them.

At one point a kid called pedro took one of the kittens out of the box and started swinging it by its tail before launching it in to a tree. all the kids where laughing at it, except me. i was not disturbed at all, it was kind of like an out of body experience so to speak, i was just there witnessing it in silence and total neutrality. everyone then moved down to a big hill of dumped concrete in the field that had been dumped there several years ago by the builders. it was at this point that pedo and another kid called juan pedro started to take the kittens out of the box one by one, and killed them by bashing them over the head with a steel pipe.

While this was happening i mostly felt indifferent and neutral to the whole thing, however i did have some what of a sense of confusion going on, and a kind of vague feeling that there was no need to have done it. the thought stayed with me for a few days. eventually i came to the conscious decision that it was wrong to have killed them. i remember sitting in my room working out why it was wrong. this was really the first thought i had ever had on morality.

As years passed i developed more moral and ethical ideas by my self, however i usually lacked the vocabulary to express them. obviously my parents and teachers and others did try to tell me what was right and wrong, but i usually disagreed. so really i guess my morality mainly came from me.

I did not totally ignore my parents and teachers, and did learn some moral ideals from them. but if when i asked them “why?” they answered “because” i would usually dismiss what they had to say. i wanted objective reasons as to why it was wrong.

I remember a teacher of mine trying to tell me that it is rude to wear a hat indoors. when i asked why she never had any good reason. so i insisted on keeping the hat on. i even got kicked out of class a couple of times because of it.

as years passed i developed more and more moral and ethical ideas for my self, while taking on board the ideals of others. but if im honest, it was not until i was about 15 years old that i started to have ideas on morality that where more than just rudimentary. im now 27 and still changing my mind of certain moral ideals, i probably will never stop either.

the main people who have influenced me are, my parents, a teacher called nicolau, my friend fernando, a drag queen by the name of carlota, and several TV personalities, such as george carlin.

gasman's avatar

Two incidents come to mind, both at age 5 or 6. In the first, I was playing in the bathroom sink (filling it with water, etc & making a wet mess). My mother came in & asked me if I had been playing in the sink. I said no, though confronted with all evidence to the contrary I soon admitted my lie. It was probably neither the first nor last time I ever lied to her, but it sticks in my mind as formative in my moral sense of always telling the truth. My parents were very big on “honesty is the best policy.”

On another occasion I had been misbehaving (I don’t remember exactly how). A short time later I bumped my head on the kitchen counter, not seriously hurt but crying from pain. My mother said to me, “You see, God is punishing you for your bad behavior.” I clearly remember thinking (translating now to adult language): “Bulls**t, nobody made me hit my head, it was simply an unfortunate accident and a coincidence that it happened at this particular time.” In fact I said nothing to my mother but it’s the earliest example I recall of rejecting supernatural / religious explanations for physical events.

Thus my morality, though well-formed at an early age, was never tied to religious belief.

YoBob's avatar

I can’t recall a single incident. I think the biggest influence has been the good fortune of being the product of a traditional nuclear family with two excellent human beings for parents.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

My morality was heavily influenced by growing up in a rabidly fundamentalist, evangelical Christian household. It has given me great stuff to rebel against.

I was also influenced beyond compare by spending a year as an exchange student in Japan. Living in a country whose way of life was so radically different than my own was transformational. It lead me to understand that there are many ways of living.

everephebe's avatar

Reading books, stories are where I get my morals. The little prince, and the Prophet are major influences.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@everephebe has a good point. Books have influenced me, too.

JustmeAman's avatar

Yes some books help but are really someone elses views and often times someone with more experience than our own. So you have to take from them what you want or need to help you on your discovery.

wundayatta's avatar

@poisonedantidote I wish I could give you more than one GA. Thank you for that story.

Cruiser's avatar

My morals were shaped by a very strict and defined set of constructs of the Catholic Church and 2 years of Catholic School and then 6 years of CCD and a very strict mother. My dad taught me tolerance as he mediated my screw ups and allowed me mny mistakes as learning experiences in life. A good solid education provided me with the additional knowledge to see past the prejudices I was exposed to that were alive and well when I was a child.

Enduring 4 years of reverse sematic discrimination (or whatever it is called when Jews discriminate against non-Jews) in high school helped me realize that the world is full of bias and hatred and I was truly dependent on my own views of how I needed to approach this oft times violent and cruel world.

It is a whole new world today as attempting to raise my boys in the facebook violent video game world and attempting to teach them and help them develop a solid moral foundation that will give them the tools to respect themselves enough to resist the temptations that this wild web world exposes them to.

tranquilsea's avatar

My moral code developed as a result of the tumultuous childhood I had and how sensitive I am. I was forever bringing injured birds home to try to save them and they always died. When I was 8 or 9 a crow landed in our backyard. It had a severely broken wing and we knew it wasn’t going to survive. My ridiculously stupid next door neighbour told my mother that he could tied a string around the crow’s neck and snap its neck as that would be a fast death. Well, he didn’t do it properly and eventually ended up tearing the poor crow’s head off. We were all screaming and crying by that point. I knew then I could never do anything to hasten another creature’s death.

When I was in around the same age I took part in teasing and taunting a boy at school. He often got taunted. I was struck nearly immediately by how awful it was to do such a thing. The next day I apologized to him and I became vocal opponent of teasing when it happened around me.

Seeing and experiencing injustice has caused me to vow to stand up it when it happens.

free_fallin's avatar

I’ve come back to this question a few times trying to decide where my morality came from and exactly what has defined who I am. I have been influenced by my family in both good and harmful ways. I’ve witnessed the death of humans and animals, literally watching them die in front of me. I have held the bloody hand of a woman knowing the ambulance was never going to make it in time. I have taken homeless people to shelters, given them money, hugged them while they cried and cried with them. I have stopped to pick up animals on the side of the road. I have watched people destroy themselves and still offer whatever help I could provide.

At times the tragedies in my life have caused my moral fiber to become a thread that almost unraveled before my eyes. Somehow I managed to make it through everything and tell you I will never stop believing in the basic good of humanity. I will never stop helping people even when I know deep down they won’t change. My hope allows my morality to forever live.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Most, if not all, of my morals have come from exposure to people that I was regularly around: parents, family, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, church members, co-workers.

The only thing that stands out as an incident was from high school days. A female friend invited 10–15 of us over to her house when we were about 16–17 years old. We got onto the discussion of relationships. The girls who had ‘done it’ with their boyfriends allowed us to question their experience. Essentially, they were all in agreement that it was not a pleasurable experiences.

That conversation stuck with me. It wasn’t until I was in a relationship with someone who shared a mutual commitment to wanting it to move forward that I lost my virginity. I’m glad that I waited.

MissAnthrope's avatar

My divorced biological parents have two completely different styles of parenting and very, very different family values. It’s funny, I think my dad, who is so conservative and traditional, tried really hard to instill morals in me and my step-brothers, but the way he went about it was so hypocritical and ineffectual that we went completely the opposite direction and became a bunch of hoodlums instead (seriously).

My mom had a relaxed parenting style without a lot of direct moral guidance. I learned from observation and obviously from being punished when I did something outside what was deemed acceptable.

I’ve often wondered over the years how in the world I turned out to be who I am. Quite honestly, the odds were very much against me turning out to be good, principled, kind, compassionate, etc. It’s the eternal question of how one person with horrid beginnings can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become someone truly amazing, while another person with the same beginnings will go the opposite direction and turn into the kind of person they were taught by example to be growing up.

I guess my main moral compass is learning by experience. Every time someone does something shitty to me, I take note of how it feels. Then, if I later have an opportunity to do the same shitty thing to someone else, I vividly recall how it felt when I was in their shoes. I almost always avoid hurting people and I always avoid purposely being cruel, selfish, or doing things at the expense of others. Kind of the Golden Rule, I guess, but I do it not because I was taught it, but because that’s what feels most right to me.

crazyivan's avatar

I was born in Detroit and lived there until I was about 13. My family moved to south Georgia and I encountered the bible belt for the first time. About two weeks after I started my new Junior High there was a class discussion about religion and there was an exchange student in the class who was a Muslim.

One of the girls turned to him at one point and said in the most offended and outraged voice she could muster “You don’t believe in Jesus?”... it was an accusation and a nasty one at that.

Not sure why it always stuck with me the way it did but to this day I feel for that poor kid…

YARNLADY's avatar

I was raised in a very religious household/extended family. I learned that good people don’t always follow their own rules, and that being ethical is more rewarding than not.

crazyivan's avatar

@YARNLADY What a great answer. I mean, I clicked “great answer” but there’s no button for “really great answer” so I had to settle for a post. I’m always impressed when somebody manages to pack that much wisdom into so few words.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I don’t have a single incident either, but it definitely has something to do with influence from several other people over time just expressing their point of view on things, which made me think that how i was thinking was really not nice at all. I was always mostly moral already, but there was plenty of space for improvement on some little things, which are actually not that little. I never practised any lack of morality on anyone or anything, but my thoughts on certain things at least have changed for the better.

wgallios's avatar

I grew up in some shady parts of town in Las Vegas. When I was about 14 years old a man walked down my street firing an AK-47 into houses. It was all over the news, and I remember residents were told to stay in their houses, and stay close to the floor. A bullet hit my house, and the sound of it breaking glass, and piercing through the house knowing it could have killed you was very chilling. Fortunately the SWAT van got close enough and was able to kill the guy.

Some schools in those parts in Las Vegas use to have gun drills. We would practice what to do incase we ever heard a gun shot go off… kind of like a fire drill…but for guns lol

I guess where I am getting at is seeing situations like those, having to deal with standing in line for foodstamps (before they got the cards lol), I use to live in a trailer growing up and had a bed sheet for a front door =D It all reminds me to this day that things can always be worse, and to remind me that there is no such thing as up without down.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Comic books. As a kid I collected them like crazy and was always impressed by the complexity of the characters.

weeveeship's avatar

Batman Begins and Batman: The Dark Knight

woodcutter's avatar

@YoBob..can’t get much better than that GA

zophu's avatar

I only loved one beautiful human, who was broken by unquestionable authority. You could say that shaped my anti-morality. Not that I’m really immoral. I just create my own morals, and believe that is what everyone would naturally, constantly strive to do if we weren’t so systematically broken.

wundayatta's avatar

@zophu I’m not sure what you mean. Can you give an example of an anti-moral? Can you tell me what you mean by “systematically broken?”

zophu's avatar

@wundayatta People are systematically coerced and conditioned to accept and perpetuate rules that they lack natural comprehensions of. I’m anti-that. Not to say rules should never be applied to those who lack the natural comprehensions, but it should be an intolerable condition to those who suffer it and those who witness it being suffered. People are far too comfortable, accepting rules they don’t fully understand, even enforcing rules they don’t fully understand, and seeing those rules affect people in ways they don’t understand.

My morality demands that all others create their own morality, and reject any that they do not understand in a way that truly feels natural to them at every stage of comprehension; so forcing actual awareness and learning to occur if cooperation is truly necessary instead of relying upon constant obedience. It is the only way for people to be free from isolated ideals, and it is what people do naturally until they are force-fed their first few spoonfuls of cold morals.

wundayatta's avatar

Ah. You want people to think for themselves, not to parrot the party line (follow the rules).

Just so you know, I believe that, too. However, I think the analysis thinkers come up with is still morality (not anti-morality). I’m not arguing with you. Just defining a term (how I use the word).

Pachy's avatar

having one parent die young, watching another grow old and ill, losing co-workers and close friends, and being taken by ambulance to hospital.

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