What is the point of having principles if they are not one’s top priority?
We as individuals, and as groups, need codes of conduct. We literally cannot function without them. If everybody runs around hoarding belongings, stealing others’ belongings, killing each other, having sex with whoever we want whenever we want, etc., you cannot have a sustainable society. It also pretty much guarantees we’d all have very short lifespans.
Because this is what our world would be if we lacked principles. Human beings don’t behave that way for no reason. We are animals. We are not built to be fair, disciplined, generous creatures naturally. We are built to take all that we can get. In a world where we behaved how our instincts tell us to, then might becomes what’s right. The weak die, the moderately fit are enslaved, and the strongest/smartest would be vicious overlords.
This is why it matters to have principles. It’s never, literally never, easy having principles. It takes daily, constant, conscious effort to uphold one’s code. Whatever a person’s code is, I guarantee that their code is not who they are naturally. Given a fitting circumstance, we all become monsters, even those considered by most to be weak. Joseph Stalin was short, walked his whole life with a limp, had a barely-functional arm, and yet he killed the most people of anyone in human history.
This is a large part of the reason I hate what the political Left has become, because it seems everyone in it thinks that if only they had all the power, they wouldn’t be a dictator, they’d spread goodness throughout the land. Well, that’s bullshit. History has taught us over, and over, and over, that there is nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks they’re right. It’s always, “Well, I’d have to do a few bad things, but the ends justify the means, right?” No, no, stop right there. As soon as you do anything you know is wrong, you are already lost.
Principles should never be compromised, in any circumstance.
Now, you may make the argument that sometimes bad things are necessary. Like in war, when you are defending your country from invaders. Sure. But that’s why I’d argue a person’s morals should never be black-and-white. For example, I would also consider ending the life of another, but only in very specific circumstances, like if someone tried to kill my child, or broke into my home for any reason. Clearly, I don’t believe killing is completely wrong. If I thought it always was, no matter what, then it would be breaking my code to ever do it.
A person’s code should be thoroughly constructed. I developed my own from early childhood through my teen years. I only came up with two absolutes. Only two things I can think of are absolutely wrong no matter what the circumstance: Rape and infidelity. Literally no justification for either of those things, ever. And you can be damn sure I will never do either of those things.
Yet, I am equally as committed to the rules that are not absolute. For example, I will never steal if it’s not necessary to survival. Stealing is not as evil as murder or rape, but I am still equally as absolute in that I will never do it if it’s not necessary. There’s a gray area in the subject of theft, but concerning when I will or will not consider it, then it’s completely black-and-white. I will steal if I need to for survival, but I will never do it if I don’t need to.
This is how everyone’s moral code ought to be, in my opinion. Allow nuance, but also draw hard lines. Understand full well when you would consider something and when you never will.
I’ve noticed something about myself somewhat recently. As honest as I am, and as much as I pride myself in being an honest person, I still lie in certain situations. In general, I believe it is wrong to white lie (saying yes if your wife asks you if a dress looks good when you don’t think it does), and I also believe it’s wrong to lie when someone asks your opinion on something, no matter how sensitive you know that person is. And of course, I believe it’s wrong to tell big lies. So, when do I allow myself to tell lies? When I don’t want to explain something that is unnecessary to explain and would be long/complicated if properly explained. But, that’s the rule: It has to be unimportant, and it has to be overly long/complicated. If either of those things are not in place, I must tell the whole story. That is my rule.
A situation happened a few weeks ago that was very serious, and it would have benefitted me to lie. In fact, it would have been incredibly easy to lie about it. But, I chose not to lie. Actually, for me, it wasn’t even an option to lie. I told the truth because I just couldn’t bring myself to lie. Not to mention, I’m such an honest person that I always start speaking before I even have time to think of a lie, if I so wanted to lie.
On to the more pressing matter, though… Is it ever okay to violate your code? The answer is no. It’s only logical: Why have a rule in place if it can be violated? If you can allow yourself to break one of your own rules, then don’t bother having your own rules in the first place. Simply accept that you do what suits you when you want to. The exact attitude that would destroy our social fabric if enough people had it.
I mentioned my first love in my post Exes. I told how she did something wrong to me, and acknowledged it was wrong. That has always made me wonder why and how. I can’t answer that. It is physically impossible for me to understand. Whenever I’m tempted to break one of my rules, as we all are from time to time, I’m consumed with guilt merely thinking about it. I don’t have to actually do it. For example, if you know it’s wrong to steal someone’s car, and you know they need it to get to work and thus pay bills, how can you possibly take the step between knowing it’s wrong to actually committing the act? I’d just think endlessly about the guy whose life I’d be damaging, and I’d feel shame as if I had done it, even though I didn’t. Do some people simply lack empathy? Do some people see themselves as more important than everyone around them?
I’m very much one of those people who does what they want to do precisely when they want to. The reason I have that personality and yet I’m still a criminal-record-free law-abiding citizen is because I’m a liberal at heart and I live in a liberal country. It’s simply convenient that my values and my country’s values line up almost perfectly. When I choose not to steal something I really want, it’s because I truly think it’s wrong to steal, not because it’s illegal. Now, if it were illegal to be an atheist (yes, that happens in some countries), or if it were illegal to wear the color blue, I would tell cops enforcing those laws to go fuck themselves (and probably get arrested). Or take music for example. I don’t think it’s morally wrong to download songs on the internet for free (musicians make most of their money from concerts, not album sales). I do occasionally download songs through YouTube or elsewhere. The only reason I buy 99% of the songs I listen to is because I want my music to have maximum sound quality.
I don’t believe the laws of man have anything to do with morality. If something is illegal, that doesn’t make it right or wrong. Government rules are not my rules. Only my rules are my rules.
My rules cannot be violated. I cling to them because I want to be happy, I want the rest of the world to be happy, and the rules I’ve chosen for myself are what I believe the only way for everyone to be happy. In addition to believing there is no excuse for breaking one’s own code, I also think there is no point in having a code if it’s not your highest priority to obey that code. Yes, literally the highest priority. More than friends, more than family, more than knowledge and wisdom, more than legacy … more than anything. We must all serve our principles first and foremost. One does not live for their principles, but they must serve them above all else.