2010-08-23

Moral Cause-And-Effect

The world you face today is the direct and natural result of the world you faced yesterday. The course of human events is neither random nor predetermined. It is a rational and predictable chain of action and reaction. The key to living a mentally healthy and happy adult life lies in our ability to connect past events with current events, and current events with future events. We are in control of our own lives.

There are two components of this idea: Acknowledgement and responsibility.

Acknowledgement is the first step. Some float through life without ever acknowledging that the situations they face have some relationship to the past. In ignoring the events that lead to their current situation, they surrender all control to "the world out there." It just happened, right? Who knows why, and who wants to do anything about it?

Looking back, it can be difficult to see what the problem is. But the problem is that when we adopt this perspective, then we lack a basic sense empathy with respect to our current actions. If you don't believe that current situations are the direct result of prior actions, then there is no reason to believe that anything you do now will come back to haunt you (or the people you love) in the future. In reality, we know this isn't true. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Acknowledging this fact is the first step toward ensuring that your actions only affect yourself and others in a positive way.

Responsibility is the second step. Dictionary.com's entry for "responsible" provides a number of useful ways of looking at responsibility as it pertains to morality. In particular, definitions (4) and (5), taken together provide a full perspective on being morally responsible: "having a capacity for moral decisions" (4) and being "able to discharge obligations" (5).

Often, our refusal to acknowledge the causality of our actions is our vain attempt to escape responsibility for it. We all know that one little white lie often leads to a complex and pointless web of deceit. No deed goes unrewarded or unpunished. A little bad behavior here causes many bad situations elsewhere. It stands to reason that years of objectionable behavior will have far-reaching negative consequences on many people we know.

So how do we fix it? That's the easy part! Willingly acknowledging our behavior and taking responsibility for it breaks the chain of negative consequences. It is obviously best not to do something wrong at all, but having done something, it is important to make every attempt to take responsibility for it and to fix it. Consequences shoot off of our actions like a ricocheting bullet - Yes, it gets worse over time, but it is always better to tackle such things today than to leave it to another day. A month of consequences is easier to deal with than two months; two monthis is easier than three months, four years is easier than five, and so on... Remember, you are in control of your life! So take control. Own up to the bad things you've done and do what you can to make them right.

Finally, we should also keep in mind that good behavior has positive consequences. It is an amazing thing to behold how lucky good people can be. Those of us who treat others well and always remain true to our morals and honesty often find a clear path around every obstacle we face. That, too, is a direct result of our actions. The fact that we can be so wonderfully rewarded for our good deeds in life is all the incentive we need to acknowledge our actions and take responsibility for them. Before you know it, being a good person is such a second-nature habit that you won't even have to think about it. It's easy to be good!