Moral Relativism

A man works in a small sporting goods store. One day, the owner comes to him and says that the inventory is out by $2,000. He accuses the employee of theft as he cannot imagine another reason for the discrepancy. The employee insists that he has paid for every item he ever took from the store and has the receipts. But, in order to appease his boss and keep his job, the employee agrees to pay $500 toward the loss.

A few days later, the employee is served with legal papers charging him with theft and requiring payment of the $2,000 deficit. The employee is shocked. Furious. How dare the owner treat him this way? It’s totally unfair!

What do you think?

This story was told to me by my neighbor, who never uses 2 words when 20 will do. I hear him but after awhile I don’t really listen. Which is why the truth didn’t hit me until later. If the employee did NOT steal anything, why was he willing to pay the owner $500? Why not produce the receipts and prove his innocence? The employee’s offer to pay any amount was as good as an admission of guilt. Was it not? So why should he be surprised that the owner took it as such, and decided to pursue legal action to get 100% of what was owing to him?

Is this a genuine case of misunderstanding? Did the employee steal some goods and pay for some? Did the owner investigate other possibilities – a computer glitch, supplier error, misplaced stock? Or is this an example of a person pushing the boundaries of right/wrong, then feeling angry and indignant when he is caught and called on it?

Since we don’t know all the facts, we can only guess. Perhaps choose sides based on whoever we sympathize with the most. Or do we squirm a bit uncomfortably as we recall some of our own youthful follies? I confess I have done a few morally questionable things in my (much) younger days.

Shades of gray. That’s where most of the world lives. But when we observe the code of moral relativism, and your rights impinge on mine or mine on yours, who wins? The bigger one? The stronger one? The one willing to push harder and fight longer? I find the very idea exhausting and the whole prospect terrifying. No, I take comfort in knowing there is a clear distinction between right and wrong.

It’s human nature to want to rationalize our choices, our behaviour. To make excuses. We may have extenuating circumstances that would cause the hardest human heart to soften and bleed. We may be forgiven our transgressions and have our debt waived. But it still does not make wrong right.

This defensive/rationalistic victim-like mentality is becoming too engrained in our way of thinking and dealing with the world around us. It’s a combination of “me first” and when things don’t go our way “poor me”. It’s hard to have moral convictions. To do what’s right when people around us are getting away with all kinds of things.

There is an ultimate authority, a judge to whom we will all answer. I hope to stand before that judge with a clear conscience. But life is a trial and error proposition and I know there are plenty of gray areas – as well as youthful sins – that will shadow me. Even when I know better, I still make mistakes and wrong choices; I still mess up. Yet, I take comfort in knowing I can confess, repent and receive forgiveness. Then, because I have a moral compass, I can recalibrate my “true north”. And carry on.


About verawrites

Progress not perfection - that's my goal. Live and learn - that's my motto. I like to share bits of wisdom and glimmers of insight gleaned on my life journey of 50+ years. My hope is to encourage, perhaps inspire, fellow journeyers. Each of us has something to share. Let's be generous, gracious and compassionate with one another. I am blessed to be a blessing... so are you!
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