Monday, November 13, 2006

My moral oscillation

Last week a good friend phoned me, and in the course of our conversation I learned that a mutual acquaintance, also a professor, was involved in a questionable behavior—one perhaps immoral, probably unethical, and certainly a bad idea. In talking and thinking about the situation, I was struck by my very mixed reaction to it.

I felt:

Judgment, “what an idiot,” and empathy, “poor guy, he must really be hurting.”

Prurience, “I would like to do that,” and shame, “I can’t believe I’m thinking this.”

Fear, “what if that happens to me,” and gratitude, “there but by the grace of God go I.”

Pride, “I would never do that,” and humility, “Father, please keep me out of it.”

I pretty much bounced back and forth between these reactions throughout the conversation. This moral oscillation is pretty typical for me and other Christians that I know, and perhaps it more accurately describes Christian morality than either A) “sinner” or B) “saint.” Sort of C) “all the above,” and we’re trying to spend more time in right (re)actions, less time in wrong reactions, and being honest about both.

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