Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Can people be good people in spite of moral failures?

Asked by wundayatta (58663points) September 15th, 2009

Let’s say that another person holds beliefs that you believe are immoral. These are deeply held beliefs, and they come by those beliefs honestly, perhaps through a religion or education. Maybe they’ve been taught those beliefs by their parents. Yet, those beliefs, in your opinion, are wrong and are harmful to others.

Perhaps you are an atheist who thinks that religious beliefs are harmful. Perhaps you are a pacifist who thinks that anyone in the military has made a poor moral choice. Perhaps you are a liberal who believes that any conservative or libertarian opposed to social programs is inhumane.

Can you still think of these people as good people, despite the difference in principles? Could you be friends with someone who does not share your basic beliefs about what is right and wrong? Can you respect a person who holds beliefs that you believe are immoral? If so, how can you do this?

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66 Answers

markyy's avatar

We already do this with the elderly people. They can be racist, sexist, whatever and we will just say silly gramps you’re from a different time (you don’t know better).

Strauss's avatar

Absolutely. I am not here to judge another, nor are others here to judge me. I am a pacifist, and have been for a long time. When my son was considering entering the military, I was hoping it would not happen. However, I raised my son to live according to his value., He was pursuing a life-long opportunity, and I had no choice (morally) but to support his right to make that decision.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

Politics & religion are two things that I won’t delve into with people. Everyone’s got the right to believe as they wish. If they differ from my beliefs, so be it. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. I say live & let live. There’s good in everyone. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper in people to find it, but it’s there.

Of course people can be good in spite of moral failures. Everyone on this earth has had a moral failure at some point in their lives. It’s just human nature.

zephyr826's avatar

I think it’s possible for people who hold different beliefs (some of which are repugnant to me) to still be good people. There are many people who are secretly or passively racist, yet who behave toward the majority of other people with nothing but kindness and respect, because they keep their thoughts to themselves.
No one group holds a monopoly on morality, and good people can be found within every camp.
In the same way, however, no specific belief system guarantees its members to be good people. I know plenty of “good Christian woman’’ who are intolerant and cruel, allegedly because of their faith. Not to pick on Christians, but it’s the belief system with which I am most familiar.

CMaz's avatar


We all follow the beat of a different drummer.

MrItty's avatar

Of course you can. A single belief or viewpoint doesn’t make anyone a “good” or “bad” person. It simply makes us all different. And that’s a good thing.

I occasionally cringe when my female roommate spouts disgust at the ideas of homosexual relationships. I roll my eyes when my mother refers to her friend as “the black girl”. It doesn’t make either of them bad people. It makes them people I love and care about, with whom I fundamentally disagree on one particular topic.

noodle_poodle's avatar

yeesh thats a tough one I’d say its probably possible but personally I am not tolerant enough to allow it…for instance i have found myself unable to be friends with anyone in the army..i have met people who wish to join and have had friends who then decided to persue a career in the forces and I though i can maintain civility with them I cant be close to them.

It contradicts badly with own perspective….i just cant see round the idea that to join the army you must be willing to point a gun at someone you dont know with full willingness to fire it, often just because you have been told to and may not even be aware of why your being told to (i cant perceive someone who could take a strangers life as good in any circumstance i have yet come across)...the idea of taking orders and relinquishing the responsibility to to think if something is the right thing to do or not just goes against my grain….on the other hand there are a few people who have done stuff i defiantly consider bad but i remain friends with them….so i think its probably circumstantial.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

so, are you asking whether or not I could still think that red neck who smacks his wife around is a swell guy?

the things you mentioned aren’t cut and dry morality issues, someone’s belief in god doesn’t change the type of person they are to be honest, you can be a christian asshole just as easily as you could be a christian saint.

nikipedia's avatar

Interesting question as usual, @daloon. I think you may have created a false dichotomy: people can’t be divvied up into the Goods versus the Bads. I do think someone with an immoral belief is a worse person for it. If you get enough immoral beliefs, then at some point that would probably tip the scales and be a full-on bad person.

Your question referred specifically to beliefs rather than actions. In many ways actions might be the more important barometer of goodness versus badness. If someone believes homosexuality is horrible but treats homosexual people with kindness and respect anyway, I would have a hard time condemning that person as immoral—indeed, this person might be even more impressive for overcoming a known bias. What do you think?

ratboy's avatar

No. Anyone whose beliefs deviate in any way from mine is predestined for eternal damnation.

valdasta's avatar

I am a Christian so I have a Biblical bias or perspective [don’t worry; I am not going to get too preachy]. According to the Bible, “There is none righteous, no not one…” We all have a sinful nature, and though we may have our “good” moments, we all still have faults, sins, and failures. We are all sin-factories; we just manifest or produce our sin in different ways.

With this in mind, I have no ill thoughts towards people who believe different than I do, nor do I hate anyone who practices things which the Bible declares to be sin. I am just a sinner who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I don’t have the “holier than thou” mentality. We are all made of the same lump of clay.

CMaz's avatar

Good and bad are labels we put on others and things.
You see, there is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action. Reaction. Cause and effect.
Choice is an illusion, created between those with power, and those without

Beneath our poised appearance, the truth is we are completely out of control. Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the “why”. “Why” is what separates us from them, you from me. `Why’ is the only real social power, without it you are powerless.

-The Matrix Reloaded

EmpressPixie's avatar

I’m going to turn to Anne Frank on this one: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

So yes, I think that people can be good in spite of moral failures. I may not respect a person’s beliefs if I think they are immoral, but I may still appreciate and value the person. My grandmother, for example, does not like homosexuals. I don’t like that she doesn’t like them, but I haven’t written her off as a human being for this one failing. She’s a beautiful, wonderful person who genuinely cares for the world (even the people she doesn’t like or approve of) and tries to make it a better place. I wouldn’t trust her judgment in news stations (Fox news) or recommendation on who to vote for (she usually takes mine because it is something I’m passionate about), but I would trust her to be a damn good grandmother.

alex_85's avatar

of course! people no matter how good bad they are, still have a good side. as we grow old we tend to realize things and eventually change our point of view. religious people often says, repent and you will be forgiven. nobody’s perfect in this world so who are we to judge.

LostInParadise's avatar

@EmpressPixie , Interesting that you should mention Anne Frank. Was Hitler good at heart? He sincerely believed that Germans were superior and that Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies were doing great damage to the gene pool. If he were correct, would that justify his actions?

I am not so sure how forgiving I could be. If someone shows intolerance and is in a position to do harm to people because of it, then I don’t think I could befriend that person.

There is a story about a Tibetan Buddhist monk who spent time imprisoned by the Chinese. When asked what he feared most while in prison, he said that what he feared most was that he might lose compassion toward his captors. Very noble, and on a good day maybe I could feel compassion toward harmful bigots, but I am still not going to associate with them.

JLeslie's avatar

If there is mutual respect you can be friends, but It would be difficult for me to be close friends with someone who had several significantly different beliefs than me on moral issues. Part of the reason is I like to discuss issues, so it is very stressful on the relationship. One difference can be overcome, but many would be very tough. I can respect their point of view, but not be girly BFF girlfriends with them probably. I do have a few friends who are pro-life, and that seems not to affect anything.

rebbel's avatar

Only once i broke up a friendship because of our different views.
In my opinion (and he agreed) he was a racist.
(For example: his son had a birthday-party for which he could invite some class-mates and friends (he turned five or six) and my friend asked me to come with my car to drive some children to the place where the party was to be held.
He asked me to take the only black child in the group in my car…)
Although i did not agree at all with his view, it didn’t stop us from being friends, at first.
Only after we had endless hot debates about the matter (and him always starting talks about them stupid, non-working, smelly Maroccans (in spite of us agreeing that we would not touch our indifferences in the matter any longer)), which always ended in both of us being annoyed and calling each other names, i came to the conclusion that this friendship had no value anymore.
When i got sick (a depression) and he wouldn’t cope with that (men don’t cry and emotions are for sissies) i had enough.

wundayatta's avatar

@nikipedia Your point about “good” and “bad” and other people’s points about not judging others tells me that I didn’t phrase the question the way I meant it. I think I meant, “can you hold someone in high esteem in spite of moral failures.”

I ask because this really troubles me. I like @JLeslie‘s answer that there can be one or two such differences, but there is a tipping point beyond which it is no longer possible to befriend such a person.

I do think that beliefs (political, religious, personal, etc) tell me a lot about a person’s character. As you point out, @nikipedia, behaviors are important, and often belie beliefs. People often say they believe one thing, but behave in another way.

There’s also a difference between having someone as a friend, and just having someone as an acquaintance if they are so different from you. I usually chalk up differences in moral beliefs to differences in experience. I don’t hold experience against anyone, but I generally do not choose to befriend people whose behavior (and to some extend, statements of belief are behavior) offends me because it seems to harm people.

Could I have a bigot as a friend? Could I have a conservative as a friend? I might be able to respect them, if their views seem principled, and if they use evidence to base their views on (hard to imagine with a bigot). I would certainly be able to talk to them civilly (after many years of working on this). But to befriend them?

I have people who are friends because we do certain activities together. However, because of other views or attitudes, I don’t really enjoy socializing with them outside of that activity. Why do I call them “friends?” Because their participation in this activity shows their hearts are in the right place. One of them may believe in astrology and in claims for which there is very dubious evidence, and the other may behave in a macho, confrontative, or self-aggrandizing way (which I find both annoying and admirable), but we play together, and that outweighs these other annoyances. So they are friends, not just acquaintances. But they aren’t close friends.

Politics are very important to me. I believe very strongly in trying to make the world a better place, and I see people of certain political views to be actively obstructing social justice, as I see it. I don’t have any friends, to my knowledge, who espouse those views. If there was a conservative who did things that I do, and who was respectful and argued sensibly, then I think I could like them. Whether that would move them into the category of friends (people I seek out), I don’t know.

I am more tolerant of people with different religious views, as far as friendship is concerned. But I see religion as having a good intent, even if it may not be the most effective way of achieving those goals. So if there are people I enjoy being around in other ways, religion will not stand in the way of us being friends.

But I’ve cut off friendships because my friend treated his girlfriend in an abominable way. Later on, I regretted that choice, but it was too late by then to repair things. I’m sure this guys beliefs in rather dodgy pseudo-science bothered me, too, and may have been a part of it. Anyway, I’ve learned not to be so hasty in turning on a friend.

Blood is thicker than water. My brother is involved with a friend of mine, and in my opinion, he treats her less well than is respectful. Still, he’s my brother. But we don’t have all that much that we do together outside of family gatherings. He’s a nice guy; he has the right politics and religion; the kids adore him; but there’s a big gulf in between us.

I guess what matters to me is how people treat others, both on an individual basis and on a political basis. That’s their moral outlook, I guess. Another thing that really matters is how they interpret the evidence provided by the world. The more magic they believe in, the harder it is for me to befriend them. That’s not a moral failure so much as a failure of learning. However, if someone has a good reason for having magical thinking, like if it’s due to a trauma of some kind, then I might be able to befriend them.

I think I’m rather picky, although there are plenty of people out there who share much of my outlook on life. I tend to be somewhat less than outgoing so the reason I don’t have so many friends is at least partially due to my introversion, and not all the fault of my standards.

But, honestly, even going through all that thinking about this, I still can’t say. There’s something about my thinking that troubles me, and I don’t really know what it is.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, I reread the initial question and I think of Teddy Kennedy. His failing to report the drowning of the young woman who was in the car with him, he himself would call a moral failing, but I think he believed himself to be a moral man. Sometimes we ast in a way that even surprises ourselves out of fear, desperation, or shock. It sometimes goes against our expectations of others and ourselves, yet we do it, hopefully learning from it so we don’t do it again.

I also think of family members who cheat on their spouses. I do not stop talking to them because of it, I just am glad they are not my husbands. I focus on how they treat me, and not on things that don’t affect me.

Janka's avatar

I think the definition of a “good person” comes from intent, not from individual moral beliefs as such. A person who has such qualities as dignity, integrity, honesty, and kindness towards all is a good person, regardless of religious, political, or other beliefs that might actually be harmful. That does not mean that “just meaning well” means you are free from responsibility for the harm you cause—but it means that you are not evil when you do the harm.

JLeslie's avatar

@Janka I like that answer a lot.

tinyfaery's avatar

I agree with @nikipedia. What people say and think are not as indicative to character as people’s actions. People say all kinds of things, but I try to let actions, not words, define others. I can find individual actions abhorrent, and I do, but the fact that these same individuals also (at least hopefully) do things that I consider positive, keeps me from holding fixed ideas about people. For instance, I have a friend who makes hideous racial comments, but he is my main contact for animal rescue issues and he is very generous with his money and possessions.

galileogirl's avatar

If you are a vegan and you eat meat, that is your moral failure. You can’t visit your beliefs on another so your being a vegan does not make a cattle rancher immoral.

dalepetrie's avatar

I think each and every one of us when you get right down to it thinks that our way of thinking, our system of belief, etc. is the only “right” way when you get right down to it But a true sign of character is to be able to admit some times that we don’t have it all figured out yet….some times we may be wrong, we may be looking at things the wrong way, and some times there are even things that we believe or seem to believe that are inconsistent with our character. I’ll give some examples.

I’ll give you an example. I used to believe in stricter immigration laws, for me it was a fairness issue. What makes YOU so important that you can circumvent our laws and sneak in, go home and get in line. Of course, that whole argument fell apart when I met someone who was here illegally and at first I wanted to call INS on him but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t because I found out that for people like him there WAS no line to get in, and that it is our laws that need to change.

And I think a lot of issues are like that. I believe that a lot of the things people who are diametrically opposed to me ideologically are really a matter of them having been confused or poorly informed. Take any hot button issue, abortion for example….there are people on either side who are firmly rooted, and there are people in the middle who believe things that are inconsistent with their values because they are confused about the issue. A person may very well have the belief that life does not begin at zygote, but they may have seen these highly magnified billboards with a 40 foot tall embryo (which in real life you could barely see with the naked eye) with some little bit of minutia about x, y or z happening so many days from conception. They may have had their emotions jacked to make them support a cause that is actually out of line with their true values, and I think that happens a lot. In fact, a lot of it is by design.

I firmly believe there would be far fewer Conservatives out there if we didn’t have so much intentional misinformation out there. I have said this before and I’ll say it again, if you really want to get to the heart of the problems we have politically in this country, you need to read this book. I think to many people are easily led into ideologies that don’t reflect who they are. And for THAT reason, I’d be more apt to accept the good in a person and tolerate, reject or try to change the bad.

But I feel one must tread lightly. I would never try to change a person’s views if I felt that person came by them honestly. I think all I can do is point out the truth and appeal to a person’s values, but that’s basically where I can make inroads in changing minds. I’ve encountered a number of people on this forum and others who have come into a debate, guns blazing with a particular attitude, but I was able to assess that they were not intellectually dishonest about what they were saying. Most recently I encountered someone who was gung ho that we should torture because it provides valuable information. I provided enough evidence to conclusively show that torture did more harm than good. The person thanked me for educating him.. Some times it’s not that a person is a bad person, but that they need to be educated (or re-educated). A lot of times we don’t have all the information we need, and in two examples I’ve shown not only how we can provide people that information we lack, but how others can provide US with information WE lack.

To write someone off as bad because they do not share your beliefs in their entirety is to be truly arrogant, to say that I know I’m right, and I won’t change that no matter what, because I know everything there is to know. I’d suggest you need to humble yourself if you can’t get around certain aspects of peoples’ personalities.

One good example is religion. I don’t have any set beliefs, but for me, what I find to be the defining characteristic of what makes a person good or bad isn’t if they believe something different than I do, indeed, 90% of people out there worship a God, I don’t. Am I going to reject nine out of every 10 people out there because they believe differently than I do? No, I’m not. Now the problem comes in however when those beliefs produce intolerance…if they are so concrete in their beliefs which are based on absolutely zero empirical evidence, to the point that they feel it is their duty to become a warrior against immorality, a foot soldier in Jesus’ army meant to eradicate fags, non believers, sodomites, abortionists and all manner of other sinners, they’re passing judgment based on their values and they are not respecting my right to live by my own values. And at times I have to see that a person who is otherwise a good person may, because they have ingrained values that came as part of the package in their religious indoctrination, have some flaws in their thinking.

I think the 1970s TV show All in the Family probably best expressed this whole situation where you had the disconnect between Archie Bunker and “Meathead”. Meathead was right most of the time, but Archie, even though he believed things that were positively backwards, was a good guy, and the whole point of the show was that when he was confronted with the real world, when these things that he believed were shown to be untrue, he resisted, but he came around. He became a better person with every episode bit by bit, his prejudices were challenged. And even though he seemed on the surface to be just the worst kind of person, you realized that what was in his heart was good, but that many of the things he decried the most really were inconsistent with his true self.

Politics is another good example…you know, I don’t tend to have a lot of Republican friends, but I do have some. And the way I see it is, the ones I do have, come to their belief systems honestly. I think many Conservatives and Republicans value tradition, hard work, honesty and self reliance….all things that are very noble, which most Liberals respect. But I believe many come from a perspective of privilege….they know how hard they’ve worked to get the things they have, and they don’t have a frame of reference to put themselves in the shoes of someone who did not have their inherent advantages. They might take their lower middle class upbringing and their rise to upper middle class as a sign of their strength of character and determination, and fail to see the structural disadvantages they did not have to overcome when they use their own experience as a model. Racism for example is not in your face like it was even 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a factor in someone’s ability to drag themselves up a few notches. People who didn’t have much don’t realize that there’s a vast difference between not having much and not having anything in terms of how far you can press forward. Their sense of empathy relates more to people “just like them”...they can see how hard it is to meet their own personal financial goals and that taxation makes it all that much harder, and they see how people like them are struggling, because everyone is these days, and they can empathize with others who have it pretty good because they know how hard it is to get to where they are, they know their own efforts, they can place value on that. But someone who was born poor who stays poor, it’s easy to point fingers and say, work hard like I did, take personal responsibility, stay in school, don’t have a ton of kids you can’t support, and so on.

What a person like that may not see is that their much less affluent counterpart may have similar skills, intelligence and drive. But when the young Republican was going to school, even though mom and dad couldn’t afford clothes that wouldn’t get him laughed at, they were able to provide him a stable home so he could go to school every day. The person who’s now drawing welfare benefits may have only had one parent who was taking care of them and their siblings on minimum wage. Which maybe meant that they had to get a place to live, but sooner or later they couldn’t pay the rent, they hung on as long as they could, but they were evicted, the kids had to move and change schools again, and some things they never learned while others they were taught 7 times. The young Republican may have been able to focus on his studies and get better grades than the kid who had to look out for his family because their only parent was always working, they may have had to go out and earn money just to have something to eat. They may have eaten the cheapest, least nutritious food out there out of necessity, which did not give them what they needed to succeed in school, while young Republican maybe didn’t have an Atari growing up, but always had a fairly nutritious meal at dinner time. Young Republican may have had access to better role models, may have had some connections through dad’s work because dad worked at the same factory for his whole career, whereas welfare guy’s mom was stuffed on an assembly line somewhere and never had the chance to cultivate any real contacts, and the only role models around for welfare guy were the pimps and drug dealers who seemed to do alright for themselves. A person on the lowest rungs of the scale may have tremendous obstacles to overcome, just to survive, but a person who was still one level of poor who made the effort and made something of himself will never know this world. He will never be able to empathize because everything is colored through the lens of his own experience.

Religion to me is the same way….most of my family and friends believe in God, but most aren’t Evangelical or Fundamentalist. But some do hold some very backwards views, and I really have to look at them from the standpoint of, do they personally wish harm to another individual? The people I’m related to who don’t support equal rights for gays, well they’ve been led to believe this is special rights, they’ve been indoctrinated their whole lives into a way of thinking that says this is an abomination to everything they believe in. They don’t see how it conflicts with the overall message of love and peace which is preached by their religion. They are caring people who might give you the shirts off your backs, they welcome all in their homes and lives. And yet, what they’ve been led to believe about certain things really doesn’t go along with their values and principals.

I guess I would summarize it this way. I respect or disrespect intentions more than actions and actions more than beliefs and beliefs more than attitudes and attitudes more than opinions. Actively hating, hurting, judging and discriminating against people is a lot worse than just believing something that is wrong. We all come to this world with our own unique take on things, and I think the true judge of character is humility…can we say that people should believe what their experience leads them to believe, because things always look different from different perspectives? If we can do that, we are good people, if we say “I’m right, and I don’t like anyone who isn’t,” we are being judgmental pricks who really aren’t “good” people. And so, I think whether you’re a racist scumbag who would never be friends with someone not exactly like them, or a liberal do-gooder who wants to make the world a better place and can’t tolerate being around people who think differently, then you’re flip sides of the same coin. And I’m certainly not saying this is what YOU are doing, @daloon, but I will say that maybe THIS is the intellectual disconnect for you…how can you be so tolerant when it comes to some but not to others. I’d say you if you’re truly judging people by the appropriate characteristics then your soul is clean.

jamielynn2328's avatar

This is a hard one for me. Although I can’t force my beliefs on other people, just like they can’t force theirs on me, I have a hard time tolerating all the ignorance. And now I’ll stop typing cause it’s a bit hard to follow ^^^that up there^^^

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Yes. Some people are better at the “do as I say and not as I’ve done” because they have experiences that can help others not to go down the same paths. There are many wise and moral people (in their hearts) that didn’t exactly live that way, affected by circumstance and not all choices are between good and bad, sometimes all available choices are bad and you choose the least of them.

galileogirl's avatar

@dalepetrie I agree with you about the amount of misinformation that floats around but that is no excuse for ignorance. You and I are subjected to as much misinformation but we don’t describe undocumented aliens as lacking humanity or trying to destroy our country. We don’t compare the president to Hitler or a jungle animal. We don’t talk about starting a civil war because we disagree with the majority of the population.

The people who do act in the ways described above have as much opportunity to debunk misinformation as we do. All they need to do is get their information first hand from a variety and use logic and normal intelligence to sift through the muck and find the pearls. The more we do this, the easier it becomes because soon we see who is pouring on the muck and we can disregard anything they say.

dalepetrie's avatar

I agree that ignorance is no excuse to a point. But I think well meaning people who are just living their lives some times can be ignorant, case in point myself re immigration. If you have no exposure and all you’re exposed to is a wrong headed media interpretation, then that’s all you know. I see a lot of that coming from a small rural town. A lot of the ignorance up there is the lack of exposure. It’s natural to fear what you don’t understand, and to automatically blame the person who reacts out of fear is often to blame the victim. The powers that be are very strong they have perfected misinformation techniques, and have exploited the natural tendency of mankind to gravitate towards spectacle instead of information. People like you and me are born with an innate curiosity that just doesn’t exist for many people. When you consider that a full 84% of the people out there, 5 out of every 6 people you run into on the street are of either average or below average intelligence…basically your “C” students and below in school, the vast majority of humanity doesn’t have he intellectual capacity to be discerning about certain things. They don’t have the acuity to question the answers, they are subjected to what they are subjected to and don’t question it. And so, an average kid is born, his parents indoctrinate him into Evangelical Fundamentalist Catholic dogma, he doesn’t grow up seeing homosexuals as people, he sees them as abominations to his God.

As such, I can’t go around demonizing people because they just don’t get it. I judge them based on their intentions, are they good people to the core, do they walk the walk. What I don’t tolerate is people who are not open to any way of thought other than their own, who consider the whole thing a game, and don’t care who they hurt, these are the morally bankrupt people. This misinformation that is out there is meant to snag the unsuspecting, the undiscerning the unintelligent, basically the masses. So I can’t begrudge them if they have not yet pierced the veil. I do not begrudge them if they are willing to listen to what others have to say. Usually if they’re willing to listen, they can be educated. It’s the people who will talk themselves in circles to support whatever ignorant thing they want to believe, and then if you get them against a wall, they start with the name calling and ad hominem attacks. These people are intellectually dishonest, they are supporting an agenda that suits their own self aggrandizement. That for me is the fundamental difference. I don’t hate every person who was ignorant enough to be tricked into thinking Iraq was a good idea….I am appalled by their ignorance, but many of them have woken up, and as is human nature, they will undoubtedly follow the wrong path again in the future. But that doesn’t make them bad people, just ignorant people.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Yes. I haven’t always made my choices based on whether they are morally the right thing to do but I am a good person for the most part. I am compassionate towards other living things, I would never do something deliberately to hurt someone and if I have hurt someone physically or emotionally I feel terrible BUT I do put myself before others at times and there have been time when my morals have been lacking.

shortysith's avatar

I think each and every one of us is “the good” and “the bad”. We all have different beliefs and all do what we think is best according to our own lives. What some of us think is best for ourselves is not what other people might think is right or good. For example, I am dating someone that my friend thinks is wrong for me to date. I think it is what is best for me, and though she disagrees with it, we are still friends. We can all have different opinions but as long as we try and treat one another as best as we can this is what makes the world go round.

fireside's avatar

I think everyone has moral failings at one point or another. Even given the fact that there are many different concepts on morality and the “correct” moral code to follow, almost every person fails their own internal moral code at one time or another.

I think the key to understanding others and finding reasons for unity is tolerance and respect for others despite their position on issues. Everyone comes from a different background and set of experiences.


“there is a record of a reply given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked ‘How shall I overcome seeing the faults of others—recognizing the wrong in others?’, and He replied: ‘I will tell you. Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections?—and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others…”
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

augustlan's avatar

As said previously, intent and ignorance can go a long way in allowing me to be close to people of different belief systems than my own.

JLeslie's avatar

@daloon Yes, tipping point, good phrase to describe it. And, following @jamielynn2328 statement, the igorance is impossible, because you can’t “argue” with it. But, if the person is not ignorant, has valid arguments where we can see each others point of view, but just come down on different sides of the issues, that I can deal with.

Kraigmo's avatar

Yes of course they can. And not just by beliefs but by actions.
Martin Luther King Jr. did many immoral things in his private life (although none of them involving predatory actions).

And yet he is still every bit the hero that the nation makes him out to be, plus more.

And look at all the people who supported Bush. Each one of them is a proxy murderer, yet at the same time, many of them are heroes in different aspects of their lives. Some of them rescue children or animals. Some of them take on difficult volunteer positions. Some start companies, and use their massive profits to help others. I think people are complicated, and someone can be both a hero and villain at the exact same time. In fact many cops, are exactly both things. They might destroy a livelihood raiding a pot grower’s garden, then in the same day they might save a person’s life from a robber or murderer.

Garebo's avatar

Rare is the liberal that will accept a conservative-I have never seen it, maybe just long enough for them to stab them in the back.
Now don’t go ape on me, I am apolitical now, I had my lobotomy, I am better now, the dogma change operation was 7 years ago to this day.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’ve never been able to befriend anyone that I thought didn’t care about other people. Sounds simple, but it’s a pretty loaded sentence. If people intend to cause harm to others and do it – be it emotional or physical – I will not befriend such a person. If people have fantasies about causing harm to others – an example of what I mean could be found in my porn question – I will not be friends with them. Because the desire to harm is still there – and the only reason they probably don’t carry through – isn’t because they’re good people, it’s because they’re scared of jail or something similar.

I do judge people. A lot of people think I’m a bad person for it, but I think it’s the exact opposite. I judge people that do things I think are wrong. And I will never be able to see how that’s a bad thing. I’m not a pacifist who can befriend (or be okay with) all that I think is negative in the world. And what is negative to me? Harm done to others, by others. What is wrong with thinking something is wrong with that? What can be done to change things, to make a better world, if everyone sits by and says, “Well… Whatever.”? Bah!

Does that mean I don’t have any friends with issues? Far from it. Does it mean I’m perfect? Far from it. A major factor in whether or not I will befriend someone with issues is whether or not they’re even trying to become a better person. Do they have intent to harm? Do they excuse and disregard the negative? If so, they won’t ever be a friend. I’m all scrambled and screwed up right now. I think I should stop here, because I’m not conveying myself well.

JLeslie's avatar

@Garebo those are fighting words. I find fanatic religious right Republicans are the least accepting of different points of view. They follow their party like it is a preacher in a church, with the same fervor as how they say every single little itty bitty word in the bible is the word of God, and you have to accept everything or you might as well throw the whole book out—ridiculous! It is their unwillingness to discuss or think for themselves that makes it so frustrating and easy to dismiss. They seem accustomed to listening, nodding yes, and accepting what is told to them by the people they believe hold the truth. Now, I do not include all conservatives in this pot, not even close. Especially not people who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. So I wish you would not put all liberals together. I once saw this guy interviewed who did unscientific surveys of liberals and conservatives and he found overwhelmingly that liberals knew more about how both sides thought regarding current events, political issues, religions in the world, and some other topics that I do not remember, compared to conservatives. I’ll try to find it on the internet.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@markyy I don’t know…I, for one, don’t simply have a deaf ear to older/old people – if they say something I find to be wrong, they’ll hear it from me. To assume that old people don’t understand there have been some changes is unnecessary – plenty of eldery have all their faculties and are saying things they truly believe in – I won’t simply ignore that

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@valdasta sin factories – lol

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’ve thought about this a lot in my life. Before I answer, I guess I want to say that first I consider myself to be a good judge of people and second is that I used to be, in many ways, young and ignorant too. My education and my life experiences have made me who I am today but I am aware that I, too, am unaware about a lot of things and that my views may change in the future. At this point in my life, however, I have no qualms about NOT forming relationships/friendships with people that I deem to be ignorant according to my own standards, which I think are pretty high. And this doesn’t bother me because honestly it’s better that way for them and it’s better that way for me. I know a lot of people but there are only 2 people who truly know me. I actually think that it’s other people who are not okay with my beliefs because they think them to be so far-fetched. There will always be a point where a person will say ‘oh yeah now you’ve gone too far for my comfort’. Interstingly enough, though, I will always be someone they will tell their deepest secrets to because they know I don’t judge these things the same way others do. Just like @DrasticDreamer I do judge people and I size them up quickly and I understand their paradigm, their context and their ability to deeply engage in conversation. I recognize, of course, that it matters what family they grew up, what the town they grew up in was like. I realize and perhaps forgive a lot of ignorance. So I spend a lot of my time explaining things to people, teaching to them what I believe in, which is, of course, what I think others should believe in. Why wouldn’t I want others to believe what I believe? I’m not talking about religion – as long as you interact with your religion privately i.e. not shove it down my throat, I don’t care. I know a lot about religions and that’s not for lack of having many friends of different faiths.

Another point I wanted to make – if someone disregards something I’ve asked them nicely about, I will consider them to be willingly ignorant and that’s a ‘no-no’ in my book. If I tell you I’m queer and you consistently say ‘nah, but you’re married, you’re just bi or hetero or whatever’ my head, I am putting you in the pile not worth bothering with. Over the years I’ve managed to explain to people with more and more delicacy why it’s NOT okay for them to say or do certain things in my presence or in my house or especially around my children. This is hard to do because I don’t waiver away from my beliefs so people think I’m oh so intense all the time – damn me, with my unwavering disapproval of racism and sexism and homophobia. If you need to go joke around about that shit, do it elsewhere, there are plenty of bigots out there.

I forget who said this but this is how I live my life

Use every letter you write
every conversation you have
every meeting you attend
to express your fundamental beliefs & dreams
Affirm to others the vision of the world you want

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – DNFTT. If @Garebo was intellectually honest, he could not make that statement after having read my first post.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie I don’t know that acronym?

Garebo's avatar

@dalepetrie: now I am a troll because I said what I have as a human being experienced and seen. These are my personal observations, and experiences. Of course, conservatives do the same I just never did. The fact of the matter is both groups seem to me, pretty much the same, as I have said before; they are either Demican or Republicrat, for either group the party is first, and in most cases, the people second, yeah, I am cynical about both parties and for good reason. @dalepetrie: yes, I think what you say is mostly true-but you feel Afghanistan is more warranted then Iraq, how and why is that?

augustlan's avatar

@Garebo Maybe because Afghanistan is where Al Quaida is?

valdasta's avatar

@Garebo Jleslie is a “friend” of mine; I am a Christian and conservative…she has yet to stab me in the back (assuming that she is liberal).

@JLeslie I am a Christian and pretty conservative, but I do not idolize any political leader. I am not looking for a “Christian” President to solve the world’s problems, nor am I bamboozeled by a Rep. Pres. that claims to be a Christian. I am not a “yes” man: we teach (as does the Bible) freedom of conscience: you do not have to believe what I believe; you do not have to go to church where I go to be “right with God”. You don’t have to believe what I say or preach…study it (Bible) for yourself.

Oh @JLeslie – I haven’t stabbed you in the back yet either.

valdasta's avatar

@markyy is “DNFTT” common knowledge in cyberland?

dalepetrie's avatar

@Garebo – you’re did not behave like a troll for expressing your experience, you behaved like a troll by being disingenuous when you said,

“Rare is the liberal that will accept a conservative-I have never seen it, maybe just long enough for them to stab them in the back.”

Having done so in a forum where 99% of the people are liberal (but not Democrat, most of us here do NOT think the terms are any more synonymous than are Republican and Conservative, and if you read my comments you will see I made that distinction clearly).

You, sir made a blanket statement akin to “all liberals are unaccepting of conservatives unless they want to double cross them.” Hide behind the veil of your supposed personal experience all you want, but as I pointed out,

“If @Garebo was intellectually honest, he could not make that statement after having read my first post.”

I am incredibly liberal and I bent over backwards to explain that for me (and I firmly believe most people on here feel the same) that it’s not about whether you are liberal or conservative, it’s about whether or not you come by your beliefs honestly. I said very clearly you can’t begrudge someone for acting out of their own personal worldview or experience and I stated that I do indeed have conservative friends (though not many admittedly). I have NO DESIRE to stab anyone in the back, what I want, and what I believe firmly that most liberals, both on Fluther and elsewhere want (and I have a great deal of “life experience” because most of my good friends are liberal and share my values), want governmental policies that put people first and which are arrived at through honest debate, not misinformation, distraction and outright lies. And unfortunately (though I personally know conservatives who don’t buy into this), the Republicans and Conservatives about whom and from whom we hear the most these days are simply being reactionary, opposing anything that comes from the other side of the aisle without giving it a moment’s thought or consideration (even if it SHOULD be in line with their stated values), and are more interested in playing gotcha and spreading ridiculous rumors (such as Obama death panels) to scare ignorant people into following them.

All I personally decry is the lack of intellectual honesty in political debate…there are definitely conservatives I’ve come to respect on this and other boards because they simply believe in different things than I do, and they come by those beliefs honestly through their own life experiences….I don’t begrudge that, and indeed I think having differing perspectives ultimately leads to better governance, but not when one of the perspectives is manufactured out of whole cloth, which unfortunately the majority of right wing rhetoric these days is without question in my mind. It’s not that I dislike conservatives or Republicans, and it’s not as though I would reject what they have to say out of hat (the way so many of them do to the things people who believe what I believe say), I simply long to debate facts and principals, not lies and distortions.

I personally think if you truly believe that liberals are out to stab conservatives in the back, either a) you are not being honest with yourself, b) you are a horseshit judge of character and motivation, or c) you’re stirring the pot. I guess I made the assumption that you were doing either a or c, rather than b, because to accuse you of b would be to accuse you of ignorance. At any rate, I simply think that you making a blanket statement about how liberals are because that’s what you’ve observed is disingenuous when you have so many examples right here on this very forum to tell you that’s an unmitigated load of bullshit, and you stirring the pot by throwing out a blanket accusation like that is troll behavior…you may not “BE” a troll, but you sure as hell acted like one in my opinion and I’m calling you on it.

Now, re Afghanistan, I don’t believe I addressed that in this forum, but my thoughts there are as follows. When the US was attacked on 9/11, the masterminds hid in Afghanistan, the camps which trained the attackers were in Afghanistan, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a matter of self defense to prevent those who attacked you from doing it again by going to where they live. Today, I’m not so much a supporter of Afghanistan either. I don’t believe the US should continue to be a world police, though certainly I do think that if our actions set something astray we should commit to putting it right.

markyy's avatar

@valdasta Honestly? I had to look it up, even though trolling is very common I don’t usually participate in the corners of the internet where trolling is part of every day life. I’m thinking online games, open fora(computer says no: forums?) and craigslist/4chan.

JLeslie's avatar

@valdasta And that is why I said, “Now, I do not include all conservatives in this pot, not even close.” in my post. Because, I know many conservative Christians who want to discuss issues, and do not follow a politician or celebrity lock-step. There are extreme people on both ends. :). One of my favorite people on the right is Pat Buchanan of all people. I rarely agree with him, although sometimes I do, but I value his insight to how the right thinks, and he does not spin issues and stir up hate, but usually articulates his position and the position of the party.

valdasta's avatar

@JLeslie sorry, got lazy and didn’t read your entire post – MY BAD : (

JLeslie's avatar

@valdasta No problem. Glad you responded to my original post, so I could clarify. :)

Garebo's avatar

@dalepetrie: I admire your writing skills, but not necessarily all your view points. The masterminds hid in Afghanistan, hmm? Why has Afghanistan always been a nexus?

dalepetrie's avatar

@Garebo – we had actionable evidence that they were in Afghanistan, at least by any story I’ve read about it. Why Afghanistan, I don’t know, why always, I don’t know, I just know that if Bin Laden and the Al Quaeda leadership were hiding out in Scotland, and the Scottish government refused to do anything about it, I’d have been OK with going in there too.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@Garebo, @dalepetrie: If I recall correctly, the reason people hide in Afghanistan is kind of the same reason Poland is always getting invaded (historically): Geography. There is nothing Geographically that helps to shield Poland. Afghanistan, on the other hand, has natural formations that lend themselves to playing hide and seek and seek and seek and seek and seek and seek and seek. It’s much, much harder to fly over and rule areas out than, say, Land-Of-Totally-Flat-Plains-Without-Natural-Defenses.

dalepetrie's avatar

@EmpressPixie – that makes sense. Same reason no one’s ever won a war in Afghanistan, not even Russia.

Link's avatar

This is a tough one.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@dalepetrie: Did you watch the Daily Show, um… someday this week? Qingu and I just watched them and they touched on this very issue!

dalepetrie's avatar

@EmpressPixie – No I missed it. I’ll take a look at the DS website, should be there.

rancid's avatar

Not really. No one is truly a good person, so moral failures don’t matter as far as that is concerned. People don’t really care about anyone else.

galileogirl's avatar

There is something off in the assumptions in this question.

Person A believes in a certain moral system that requires women to dress very modestly.
Person B (a women) wears a bikini at the swimming pool because it is perfectly fine within the context of her moral system

Person A (who is asking this question) believes Person B is acting immorally and further asks if Person B can still be a good person.

It is my contention that not only can Person B be a good person but she is probably better than Person A who is trying to subject Person B to his values in which she does not believe.

Your moral values cannot make me a bad person.

@rancid People SHOULDN’T really care about anyone else’s values. The fact that they do causes a lot of the problems in this world.

Cruiser's avatar

People are just people, moral blemishes and all. But view these same people through the moral filters of religion and education and differences emerge. To say one is good or bad based on the application of these filters is where tolerance and permissiveness govern the moral majority of a given society no matter how diverse the moral landscape of that society.

wundayatta's avatar

@galileogirl You got it wrong. Person A is the one with the moral failures. He wonders if there is any way that people who have observed his moral failures could ever see him as a good person, or do those moral failures keep the doors shut to him forever?

ItsAHabit's avatar

Of course they can. If they couldn’t, there wouldn’t be any good people.

LostInParadise's avatar

Good point. One might ask, Can a person be good without moral failures? Suppose that a person is wired so as never to be tempted to do the wrong thing. Would such a person be good?

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