Finding our Moral Compass

A Moral Compass, by definition, is used in reference to a person’s ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly.

A moral compass is something that develops over time.  Although I am certain DNA has something to do with it, I suspect it has more to do with the people in our life who, from a very young age, lead by example, teaching us morals & values, moulding us into decent human beings with a good sense of right & wrong.

At some point in our lives, we become solely responsible for our own moral compass.  Now & again we may need a gentle nudge or swift kick in the butt to readjust our mindset, but for the most part, if we have been raised with the proper tools in our moral compass toolbox, we have the wherewithal to know what we should & should not do.

This is what I find both interesting & challenging.

Even if people are equipped with the same amount of tools in that toolbox, one’s moral compass seems to widely vary from person to person.  In other words, my expectation of what I deem to be right & wrong may be very different from what another person may deem to be right & wrong.

It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion, that I spend a great deal of time and energy taking care of those I love in various capacities. I take no offense as I am only too happy to do so.  It is the core of who I am as a human being.

I acknowledge I have high expectations of myself when it comes to caring for others, chipping in when I may or may not be needed. I have been accused of worse things.

My question is how do other people, who are equally equipped with the same tools, not feel the same sense of expectation for themselves?  It’s a conundrum for me.

Do you have high expectations when it comes to your own moral compass?



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44 Responses to Finding our Moral Compass

  1. Deb Patrick says:

    Love this post! (as an “over-helper” of major proportion myself…I wholly concur with your musings.)
    The past little while for me has been an often frustrating cycle of learning to adjust my moral compass expectations so that I do not always expect of others’ “moral compasses” what I would expect of myself in the situation…because I’ve learned that if someone is not capable of the bar I set, for whatever reason, it really is on me for being disappointed or frustrated when they fail to measure up and I am disappointed. They are just doing as they always will, and I cannot effect that as their guiding principles come from within as well, and I can’t change that. All we can do is conduct ourselves according to our own compass, and learn to accept and expect from others only what they are capable of as well…and then decide if we want to continue to interact with them if they consistently fall short of what we would like to see from the people in our lives. A hard lesson to be sure!

    • Lynn says:

      Deb, I love your description of being an over-helper of major proportion! GUILTY!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts as I know that you have been on a journey that has taken you to unexpected places.

      Like you, I learned a long time ago that my personal expectation bar is one that is set pretty high & have tried to adjust it for others who do not share that level of expectation. I say that without judgement, it is more about me than them.

      I so appreciate your input on this! Hope you are having a stellar day!

  2. Debbie says:

    Hi Lynn,
    I get this too. But you know we can’t identify ourselves by our role or job. Or, rather, if we identify ourselves by our role or job then we have to re-evaluate our identity several times throughout our lives. I’m not a teenager anymore but from time to time I still get that identity angst that most teens and others get. Retirement, for example, can create that angst if one is not prepared to change their role/identity.
    I don’t think it’s about moral values. I think it’s more about self-identity. You are a wonderful loving mom and now a grandmom. Me too. But our roles, as such, change over time.
    I think we will continue to be the touch-stones for our families, but it will be expressed differently. And so we must learn to let that become our new way of being the Mom/Grandmom until that new way feels like the forever way.
    There will be moments of hardship as each person in our range learns about our new role, how it is expressed, and what is the same (our love forever) verse what is differestii I remember one of my friends went on vacation over Christmas, leaving her grown children without the traditional gathering at her place. At the time, I thought it was a terrible thing to do, but now I realize it was one of those steps of re-identification for her.
    We can only offer our love and offer our service to others. We will continue to make those offers because that’s what our expression of love is. They don’t need to accept it. The offer still counts.
    As I watch my parents age, rapidly now, I realize that our roles had this bumpy ride with each of them too. I realize that this is true for everyone and it has to do with changing roles or identities as aging happens. (Thank goodness or we might all be stuck in the Terrible Twos! 😉)
    It is a change but change is good!
    Ok, time to get back out to the garden. Autumn calls!

    • Lynn says:

      Debbie, thank you for your insightful words. I agree we change & grow over time, redefining our roles in so many ways. I think part of my point was not so much in how we identify ourselves but more how we respond to situations where we are asked to step up & do the right thing. Thank you so much for adding to the piece, It is always great to receive feedback & interpretation!

  3. Yes, I have high expectations; I live up to them occasionally.

  4. This is so very true! Yes high expectations

  5. Interesting post, this is not something I think about often. I know that when I first retired, I felt guilty if I had a free minute. We have a society where it is expected that you are “busy” all the time. My moral compass has gotten looser the older I get. I make sure I enjoy what I’m doing, whether it is volunteering, helping friends, or going out and having fun. Trying to live a guilt free life, I recommend it!

    • Lynn says:

      I love that you are trying to live a guilt free life! It is so important to enjoy the precious time we are given to explore & live life! Thanks for your visit today.

  6. restlessjo says:

    I doubt that I am exceptional in this capacity, Lynn. I’ve given of myself where I could. Both parents are gone now. I’ve helped elderly friends and neighbours. Neither of my children live near enough for me to be actively involved in their lives. I hope to find a good cause or two here in the Algarve.

  7. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    I never thought it of it as part of my moral compass, I just like to help people.

  8. Jodi says:

    never thought about it this way…. interesting to ponder. those you care for sure are fortunate to have you in their lives!!

  9. Lynn this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I recently was in Chicago for six weeks visiting family. Perhaps because I live far away, I spent most of that time doing things non stop for my parents, and thinking of what my kids need and how can I help. I love to be supportive and there for them. It’s who I am too. But it exhausted me and now back in Sri Lanka, although I really miss everyone it feels good to have no obligations and be able to indulge myself by going to yoga whenever I can and not focusing on what others need 24/7. I have never viewed it as a moral compass more it’s just natural to me to focus on my kids needs and try to be there for my parents. It’s an interesting one.


    • Lynn says:

      Peta, so lovely to hear your thoughts on this. I can only imagine how exhausted you & Ben were when you returned to your beautiful home in Sri Lanka.

      Although helping to look after family is part of it, I think a moral compass goes beyond that. I am not sure I did a great job of explaining that it the post.

      It is a guide we use in our families, with our friends, in our work, in our everyday lives really. Knowing what is right & wrong from a moral perspective & living our lives accordingly.

      That is not to say we should do so at the cost of our own contentment & happiness, but to pause & give thought as to how our actions impact others, to step in to assist at times or to just offer support to someone who may be having some difficulty in whatever capacity that might be. I know that this is something you understand on a deep level, remembering your friend who passed leaving his family to fend in his absence. Your concern, your love & your support for his family is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. Whether it is a small gesture or a large one, the result is in caring.

      Thank you so much for your visit, I hope you & Ben are enjoying every moment of the paradise you call home💕

  10. Beverley l Burgess says:

    I’ve been told quite often–“to quit being a Mother to all!!!”–but, it is just part of my nature–and I love it–I can’t help but help others.As far as high expectations for myself –they are up there–but when life throws you a curve ball you learn to readjust your expectations and let things go.

    • Lynn says:

      I chuckled when I read your comment Bev. It’s hard sometimes to not be a Mom, regardless of how hard we try😂. You are so right, when those curves balls come, we often have to let go & just roll with our new normal. Thank you so much for visiting today, so great to “chat” with you here!

  11. Al says:

    You are absolutely right. There are worse things than being “overly helpful.” While by nature, my energies are primarily devoted to the safe being of my family, my wife’s outreach extends far beyond that. I find that one of her most endearing qualities.

    • Lynn says:

      Al, how lucky your family is to have your devotion & I love that recognize this quality about your wife. Thanks for taking the time to visit today!

  12. I try to balance my moral judgement with grace. But extending that to myself is difficult.

  13. Ally Bean says:

    I rate high on conscientiousness on the Big Five Personality Test so it’s not surprising to me that I have high expectations around my own moral compass, but mine isn’t focused on family [of which I have almost none]. My moral compass is more abstract in that I believe in truthfulness and grace and justice. So I judge myself on how well my words + actions are doing to embody those concepts.

    • Lynn says:

      Ally, that sounds like a great way to measure your moral compass. Truthfulness, grace & justice are all such key components when conducting our day to day lives. Thank you for adding & sharing your thoughts!

  14. dfolstad58 says:

    I do try to live up to my guidelines but am quite judgemental to myself as I have some very high achieving friends. I simply try to live without regrets. Hopefully my personal freedom will be restored if I receive a new kidney transplant as living on dialysis is very restrictive

    • Lynn says:

      Living without regrets sounds like a very good way to live David. I often try to adopt this attitude, particularly when I hear of situations like yourself where suddenly life changes & options become restricted. I wish you many more days to be able to take life on in the best capacity you can, enjoying the ride of each & every day that is gifted. Thank you for visiting today!

  15. Sue Slaght says:

    What a fascinating topic. I think we are very much alike in this way. I do wonder if personality comes into play as well Lynn. Not so much just about right and wrong but also comfort levels of being with people. I think skill levels and past experiences have a part to play as well. I have learned not to leap in too quickly over the decades but save my helping for those who actually want it.

  16. George says:

    Why does this not surprise me..:)
    I think your last question sums this up best How come others don’t feel this same sense of responsibility for this they love or care for. We’ve become a society of convenience at times, so if it doesn’t fit into our schedule we hope someone else takes care of the person or problem. Only until you’re that person, do some people understand. Great post, as always!

    • Lynn says:

      George, you never fail to find a way to make me feel like my writing a post was worth doing. Once again, you have grasped so much of what I was attempting to express. Thank you for that!

  17. Ann Coleman says:

    I definitely have high standards when it comes to my own moral compass. It may be from being a middle child, or being a minister’s daughter, but the idea that I have a moral obligation to help others is really strong in me. Sometimes, too strong. Then I have to remind myself that it’s not my place to solve everyone’s problems, and that sometimes they neither need or want my help. I think it’s a matter of boundaries, and of knowing what my limits are. I still work on that. Thanks for this post….your honesty sparked some lively conversation and certainly gave us something to think about!

  18. Great post! The givers are certainly the happiest people! They just need to rest now and then.

  19. LB says:

    Oh Lynn … all I could think about is that certain folks in higher office LACK a moral compass. Ha!
    Okay, back on track, Laurie! 🙂
    Your word conundrum is perfect … how can some do so much, and others so little?
    Hope you are well, Lynn. We are digging out from a big snow, which I was thrilled to see. Especially because my office is closed and I am home visiting blogs for the first time in months.

    • Lynn says:

      Send a little of that beautiful snow up our way, will you? We have had a small bit but would love to have more! Thanks so much for visiting today LB!

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