There may or may not be an objective, real moral standard, but we all strive to grow in morality, whether we realize it or not. I’ve observed that what is highly moral to one person is terribly immoral to another. Why is that? It’s because you may be further down the path of establishing the morality of something than another person, or vice versa. And thus lacking that experience and knowledge, the two of you disagree. Given the same knowledge and experience, there might actually be agreement. Or maybe you’ve both already diverged on some fundamental issue, meaning neither of you will ever see eye to eye on the topic.
So what you consider very good will be utterly evil to others. I wonder how many people revile pastors, who believe themselves doing the great good of shepherding Christ’s flock? To those who support pastors, they’re serving a great need. To those who oppose pastors, they think they’re manipulative leaders playing into the delusion of the uneducated.
As you live out a moral code, you better define what’s right or wrong. You become more bold in doing what you think is right, even as your beliefs become increasingly controversial, as they doubtlessly will. The beliefs become more controversial I think because they see nuances that others don’t, making something that at first glance unacceptable to actually be OK. Or you’ve thought through your morals enough that they compel you to do things that most don’t do, maybe because they’re afraid. Consider federal politics. Clinton, Trump, Sanders – they’re all highly motivated by their moral codes, and also incredibly controversial.
An implication of this is, you’ll never not have “haters.” Indeed, having haters is a sign you’re being more bold than average. The bolder your actions, spurred on by a more confident moral code, the more people will react in opposition to you. So you don’t get to have everyone like you.
Here’s another thought: someone who is capable of great good, is also capable of great evil. And vice versa. Think about Superman. Although it’s not in his normal character to do evil, if something in him were to snap, he could be a force of unprecedented destruction and evil. And it makes sense. The same tools used for evil, are also used for good. It comes down to the moral stances of the person with the power.
The degree to which you are capable of evil is the same degree you are capable of good. And the reverse is also true. A lot of men, myself included, fall into the Nice Guy stereotype – overly giving, a door mat, never causing problems, seeking to be as inoffensive as possible. Such a man has no claws, no personal power. If you are not able to do “bad,” how can you ever be expected to do “good”? You are incapable of anything.
“I wouldn’t even hurt a fly.” No, you better be capable of hurting a fly. You better be capable of smashing it repeatedly on the table until it’s fine dust. If you can’t show force on a damn fly, how can you be expected to show force to a legitimate threat?
One of my critiques of Christianity is it doesn’t really say it’s OK to show you have that “dark” or “evil” side. In fact, it discourages people from doing so. Everything I read suggests being weak, pure, and harmless. Sure the word “meek” in the Beatitudes means those who are able to do damage but refrain from doing so. Yet the rest of the Bible discourages, or at least does not encourage, building up the ability to become “meek,” where you could exert great power but choose not to.
How good or bad are you really? You don’t know until you act. I would say, maybe you’re only as good or evil as you demonstrate. We tend to associate being good with being weak or harmless. What if you were to show to yourself your monstrous side? What if you pushed your own moral boundary just a little? My biggest weakness is empathy. I hate hate hate making others feel bad or uncomfortable. But this is also a very limiting thing because it’s exceedingly easy to hurt or offend others. What if, in spite of my empathy, I said something mean? Or I did something that upset another person? What if I boldly did something I knew I shouldn’t do? What would that accomplish? I think it would show me how powerful I really am. It would show me how much good I’m also capable of, because the person who is capable of one is also capable of the other, and has probably done the other. It would also make me respect myself more because I pushed myself beyond comfort, and also gave a glimpse into the dark side of my own power. And that’s something to be feared and respected.