The moral compass – a dilemma
At one time or another, we may find ourselves in the midst of a situation where we feel as though we have no choice but to behave in a way that goes against our basic values, our moral compass. We may act instinctively and compulsively as part of what we believe is a survival tactic in what feels like a hostile situation.
I’m not talking about being in the midst of war. I’m talking about everyday life, whether it’s at home or at work. A parent may feel as though they’re losing touch with their teenager, so they start sneaking looks at their diary (if anyone still keeps those). A spouse may suspect their significant other of infidelity, so they start searching through clothing for incriminating “evidence”. An employee may feel as though a colleague is being dishonest, so they start “spying” on them. We feel as though we have been treated unfairly, and our knee-jerk reaction is to immediately send an emotionally charged e-mail.
Guilt, or letting it go and moving on?
When we respond in these ways, it is often because we feel that we have been pushed to our limit. We almost immediately regret our action, even though, for a brief moment, it had felt as though it was the only choice open to us.
Back then we felt justified. Now we feel guilty. What do we do?
If this describes you, then what I can offer is this simple, but certainly not complete, “formula”:
- Acknowledge that you have used bad judgment by engaging in your behavior.
- Get some perspective – unless you have hurt someone, either physically or emotionally by your response, recognize that all you are dealing with, for now, is your bad judgment.
- Develop a comprehensive awareness of why you behaved the way you did. It’s not enough to say, for example, “I needed to know if my spouse was cheating on me”. Recognize what your feelings were – for example, that you felt threatened, humiliated, scared, or sad.
- Then, examine what other alternatives choices you could have made that would have been more in line with your core values. This is best done, of course, NOT in the heat of the moment.
- Make a conscious decision about how you will respond the next time (if there is one) you feel this way.
- When you have done all this, let it go. It serves no purpose to stew about it, or continue to feel guilty. You are not a bad person. You just made a bad choice.
And maybe the next time you find yourself in the midst of an emotional war zone, you’ll survive with a few less scars.
- Emotional Waters (grosenberg.wordpress.com)