From childhood and throughout a lifetime, we are told what we can and cannot do.
But why can we not do some things? Often times, the answer is, “Because it’s
wrong.” But what is wrong? How does one determine the difference between
right and wrong? What it usually comes down to is what morals are directing the
decision. Whether it is what an individual thinks to be right or wrong, or what a
groups of lawmakers thinks it to be, generally all of our decisions on what is or is
not permissible comes from someone’s interpretations of morality.

But what are morals? The dictionary gives many definitions. “Of or concerned
with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character;
conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous.” In short,
morals are simply how one interprets the differences between right and wrong.
When you decide to help a struggling person in the hall, that is based on your
morals. When you decide to turn down a brewsky because you believe that
drinking is wrong, that is morals. When you vote to keep abortion legal, that is
morals. Whether thought of or done subconsciously, morals are the basis on how
you make many decisions.

From where does this sense of right or wrong originate from? Freud says that
moral development comes from observation of parents during the developmental
stage of childhood. From childhood, then, comes the foundation for adulthood
morality. A more detailed, yet similar, theory proposed by Kohlbegis that a child
goes through certain stages of moral development. The first stage is very simple;
the child perceives that whatever it is rewarded for is good, and that anything that
it is punished for is bad. As the child grows older, it perceives good as being what
makes others happy, or what gives themselves praise or attention. Finally, as
maturity is reached, the individual starts to perceive the “big picture,” and begins
to understand how certain actions affect society as a whole. Often at this stage the
individual tends to develop a life philosophy.

There are many different ways of developing morality. Sometimes someone will
make an idol or an example out of another person, living or dead. Many people try
hard to dedicate their lives to being like certain historical figures such as Jesus of
Nazareth, Buddha, or even Marilyn Manson. Often the development of a moral
system is dependent upon the belief in absolute truth. Some people believe that
there is no absolute truth, and that what is “real” is simply whatever one thinks it
is. Such a system of beliefs is very unstable, as with no absolute truth also comes a
sense of no absolute right or wrong. People who believe in absolute truth tend to
have a tighter grasp of what their beliefs are, although many still remain confused
on what the truth is.

Unfortunately, morals have a tendency to conflict. And, as human nature tend to
go, words turn into actions, and often wars have occurred because of conflicts
between what is right or wrong. While most of these wars where in the earth’s
earlier history, still today such things happen. Such violence is not always
necessarily on an international level as well. Such localized acts of violence as
abortion clinic bombs show a clear difference of opinion.

Morals clearly plan an intricate role in our lives. Without them, decisions would be
based on a completely random level, and life could never have organization.
Without morals, raising children would be virtually impossible; both the parent and
the child would be in a constant state of confusion. While many times moral
values can, in fact, conflict with that of others’, violence often makes things worse.

It is sad that morals can conflict the way they do. Personally, I find it sad that we
cannot all find some sort of source to tell us what is right and what is wrong.
Perhaps some sort of “Ultimate Being,” some sort of a “God” of some sort.
Someone who we can idolize and try to be like, a kind of “Lord.” This “Almighty
One” could give us a book of laws in some sort of a sacred book, a “Holy Word.”
If this deity truly cared for us, he could even give us a way to make up for our
wrongdoing. A “salvation” of some sort. Until mankind can find such a being,
moral conflicts will always be around.