Parenting: Our Broken Moral Compass—The Truth and Tragedy of a Failing Integrity
I think someone must have driven over our moral compass. It’s not lost – it’s broken.
When I was a boy of 12 at camp, I took a skills course in ‘orienteering’. I remember learning how to use a compass and being amazed at how it worked. I grew to trust it. No matter how turned around I got in the Northern Saskatchewan bushland, I could find my way (eventually) through uncharted territory because of my compass. It was reliable – it never changed. It was anchored to ‘True North” I was told. I would never get lost.
Problem. Where it really matters – our lives and most significant relationships – we have more than lost our moral compass. It has been trashed by humanism and driven over by hedonism. We have become our own authorities – our own True North. We do what’s right for us – not what is right. We do what gives us the greatest pleasure regardless of the consequences to others.
My concern grows for our future as a society. The effect on marriages and family relationships is so devastating. I see the disappointing and destructive choices that people are making up close and personal in the lives of the many I counsel. It’s tragic.
The moral compass is broken!
It’s beyond people just losing their way. I see blatant disdain for absolute values. People seem to have simply gotten hard and more callous. “Truth is what works for me,” is in essence what they say, regardless of the consequences – regardless of the relational collateral damage in the home.
Little wonder many are off track in our culture when you have politicians lying, presidents being impeached and having sex with Whitehouse staff and police in alliance with drug lords. We see celebrities cheating on their spouses, sport’s icons being charged with spousal abuse and murder, and corporate heads embezzling fortunes. Even Pastors are found compromising their lives by leaving their spouses for those in their congregation and so on and so on and so on. Face it – it is happening all the time. And people who call themselves Christians live anything but like one. Just yesterday, I heard the tragic story of a man being taken for thousands of dollars by a “Sunday go to church” kind of Christian. It’s not a slippery slope anymore; it’s an avalanche.
The truth is, this moral relativism is nothing really new – we see evidence of it in Scripture centuries ago. Israel completely fell away from what God wanted because “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). That’s where the trouble begins.
The compromise at first is subtle. Shadows of truth are mixed into a mirage of deception. You can mislead many people for a while and from a distance but those close to you either know intuitively or will discover soon enough. The closer others get, the more they can see it’s not at all how they were led to believe. Count on this – “Be sure your sins will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23).
In spite of this, selfishness seems to drive people to please themselves and do stupid things. Without a moral compass, they disregard honorable boundaries. They lie with a straight face. Some cheat with no sense of conscience. They repeat self-stimulating addictions to their own peril. They think unethical or even blatantly corrupt choices are okay as long as others don’t find out. After all, to put it in the cultural vernacular, “what happens in Vegas – stays in Vegas!” Garbage. Too often people don’t count the cost of their selfishness. They deeply hurt the ones they say they love the most in completely unconscionable ways. They destroy their own lives in the process.
This “compass-less” behavior is often defended as situational ethics. People are called upon to reason what would be the best thing to do under certain circumstances. Yet – from what I see, it’s a very flexible, self-motivated “situational ethics”, where people are virtually saying, “In the right situation, I will lose my ethics.” Sad. And yes, the relational chaos is enormous.
Let’s look at what we have lost.
- We have lost our sense of right and wrong. Decisions are based on what works for me – on convenience and on compromise not timeless truth. Ultimate standards are replaced by our own ethics. We bend the rules to suit our needs. We become a law unto ourselves. We reason that it’s okay as long as no one finds out.
- We have lost our personal integrity. That characteristic is when a person is quality to the core. You can trust this guy. Without integrity in business dealings, rather than God-honoring principles being lived out, people are cut throat, lying and breaking contracts. They will say whatever it takes to get a sale. Pragmatism – whatever works – wins out over principle. A person’s word means almost nothing now.
- We have lost our ability to empathize. Our self-centered orientation trumps the perspective of others. We have grown callous. We have quit asking how our choices are going to affect someone else. We no longer ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto us’ (Matthew 7:12).
- We have lost our conviction of commitment. Breaking contracts in business is common. Giving up on a marriage without work is the new norm. If it’s not working – push the ‘eject button’. We take the easy path not the right path. We don’t follow through on our commitments if they don’t make us happy. I am done if there’s discomfort, work or it might cost me something.
- We have lost our absolute standard of truth. People aren’t reading and studying the Scriptures like they used to. I have seen the changes over three family cycles. Previous generations wore out their Bibles, memorized verses more, attended weekly study groups and generally cared about what God said. Remember the mid- 70’s saying – “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” You likely don’t but that’s how people felt.
How can we turn this around? Without a huge move of God, we likely won’t see changes in the current generation in their state of compromise. But, here are 5 things wise parents can do to strengthen the moral compass for their kids – the next generation.
1. Understand the Sway of Your Conviction – Parents, what would you “pound the table” for? What are you passionate about? Kids sense your intensity about things. They can tell what matters to you. They feel it in your tone. Resolve to do what is right even if it costs you. You need to hunger about living in a way that honors God and call others to it. Be convinced and then live consistently to your moral compass.
2. Grasp the Impact of Your Example – Living consistently. Wow – so hard but so key. If kids only “hear” about how to live morally and don’t “see” it, there’s a good chance that they will miss it. Your example is not about perfection though – but it is about direction. They can see where your life is heading. Children need to see that parents are called to a higher standard. Living the truth is your platform for teaching the truth.
3. Hold Fast to the Anchor of God’s Truth – I am not a legalistic redneck but the 10 Commandments aren’t the 10 Suggestions. God’s got a plan we need to trust. When we are careless with His standards, we aren’t merely breaking God’s laws – they are breaking us. We are becoming less of the person He wants us to be. READ YOUR BIBLE DAILY. Teach your children what’s right and wrong – that it’s not determined by consensus or convenience rather than conviction – this is what God wants! Frankly, do a better job of knowing and teaching what the Bible says.
4. Maximize the Strength of Your Reinforcement – Remind kids often about what’s right and wrong. Coach daily that God’s way is best and that compromise is wrong. Refresh their memory often on why your family does it God’s way. Reiterate the difference Jesus wants to make in a person’s life. Repeat this message often. Show them “in the Bible” where you get your convictions. Memorize it. Reinforce your moral and ethical values over and over and over again. If you live it first, you can say it often. Do.
5. Practice the Power of Prayer – Pray that you as parents will keep a soft heart toward God and His Word. Pray that you will walk by faith and live out what you believe. Ask God to convict you of compromise and callousness to His truth. Ask God to help you teach it to your children faithfully and sensitively. Pray that your children would all grow in their love for Jesus. Pray that His moral compass would ignite in them. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY.
And finally, here’s something practical. I have tried to embody this conviction into a faith reading. Share it with your kids tonight and then read it again in a week and every week for 3 months. Print it, post it and practice it (available on our website). May it help your family’s compass to strengthen.
We are Christians…
We have a moral compass – an inner conviction to do what is right.
We believe that knowing Jesus must make a difference.
We believe our lives must honor God.
Therefore, we seek to live what we believe.
We keep promises.
We lend a hand.
We tell the truth.
We respect people’s stuff.
We honor our commitments.
We do our best.
We finish the job.
We don’t take what doesn’t belong to us.
We’ve quit exaggerating.
We put people first.
We admit we’re wrong.
We say we’re sorry when we blow it.
We put things back.
We treat people with respect.
We value family.
We clean up our mess.
We don’t cut corners – we do it right.
We own our mistakes.
We don’t make excuses.
We don’t shift the blame.
We love long.
We earn people’s trust and then work to keep it.
We won’t lie to those we love – or to anybody else.
We keep our word even if it costs us.
We are faithful to our vows.
And…if we don’t have anything nice to say, we don’t say anything at all.
We live today as if God were our judge – we believe He is.
You see, we are Christians – and we have a moral compass. His compass.
We live what we believe and follow one who died for what He believed.
I’d love to hear how you are teaching your kids about God’s moral compass. Please share your comments!
Moral Compass Faith Reading – Click the link to download the pdf of the above Faith Reading.
Dr. Dave Currie
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