What’s Right? What’s Wrong?

No two words in any language provoke more controversy than RIGHT and WRONG. Although there are exceptions, most people agree that a universal code of ethics does exist. Any kind of order would be impossible unless all civilized people have a set of principles that determine responsible behavior. C. S. Lewis wrote, “We know that people find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey.”

Most agree that no society could survive without moral laws that spell out right and wrong conduct. The question then becomes: Whose morality will be legislated? All laws intrude on the morality of someone. Are there moral principles and guidelines that have withstood the unfailing test of time? I believe the answer is yes!

In our culture, we often discover too late that what we thought was right turns out to be wrong and what we thought was wrong turns out to be right. This essay speaks to right and wrong — responsible conduct for all: those with religious affiliation to atheists and everyone in between.

Consider the following sample selection of right moral values and guiding principles: fairness, honesty, justice, kindness, loyalty, love, respect; their opposites constitute wrong. Right moral choices produce positive results and wrong moral choices produce negative results.

There is a powerful force at work in our lives; it is referred to as sin. Sin (vice) is any action that is detrimental to oneself or others. Traditionally, the seven most serious and deadly sins are anger or rage, greed, envy, gluttony, pride, lust and laziness. When choosing sin (and there are many others than these seven) over what’s right, the consequences can be so very destructive. It is real and its power to condemn is deadly. Many rationalize that some actions are not sinful — after all, “everybody does it.” With most people, when they do wrong, it isn’t because they don’t know what’s right; in fact, the opposite is true. They do everything possible to conceal what they have done, hoping no one will know. This is like taking poison when nobody is looking; it still will kill you. Sin destroys!

In the words of Gregory Koull, “If you believe that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you surrender the possibility of making any moral judgments on anyone else’s actions ever again, no matter how offensive to your intuitive sense of right or wrong.”

Our self-centeredness tells us it is not wrong to do what we think is right, even if others suffer from it. For wrong to turn out right negates the fact that we reap what we sow. These individuals are not discouraged from doing wrong because they fail to acknowledge that, down the road of life, they will suffer the consequences of their inappropriate conduct. It behooves people to avoid doing wrong if for no other reason than the results will be to their advantage rather than their disadvantage.

When it comes to what is truly important, we must admit that certain RIGHTS and WRONGS never change. They are timeless truths that provide guidance when facing tough issues. They worked in the past; they work in the present; they will continue to be true and work in the future. Each person is responsible for deciding which path to take and what choices to make.

So, how does one really know what’s right or what’s wrong? The answer is simple: Look inward; judge only yourself; do to others what you would like done to you or, perhaps, your children.

Dan Taddeo