My experience has taught me that living by the principles of truth and justice is essential to leading a fulfilling life. Today’s culture tries to persuade us that feelings should become the principal influence in our decision-making. Yet it is self-discipline and sacrifice that compel us to achieve the selfless goals that contribute to the betterment of society. Just look at the soldiers in the American Revolution and our Founding Fathers, all of whom risked their lives for the cause of truth and justice so that one nation, under God, could freely come to fruition.
We all must take responsibility for our daily decisions and consequences. Yes, life on this earth is not always fair. Yet there’s always hope. I believe an eternal destiny or heavenly award awaits us if we choose to embrace the virtues of selflessness, self-control, and fortitude. It is our conscience that should guide us in this earthly journey, rather than our ever-changing, transitory, and fleeting emotional state. To possess a well-formed conscience requires us to have a well-informed conscience. It is trendy for people today to claim that “your truth” is different from “my truth,” which results in the “dictatorship of moral relativism,” so aptly described by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. If there is no objective truth or moral standard to which we may conform our conduct, then we are lost at sea with no possibility to navigate and no moral compass by which to judge our actions.
So where can we discover timeless, moral principles, based upon justice and truth? A good place to start is the Ten Commandments. Wherever there is misery, dissolution, greed, deception, and injustice, you will find the violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments. True freedom is the result of doing what we ought to do in service to God and others and not what we feel like doing to fulfill our own selfish desires. The message of the Ten Commandments is reinforced throughout the Holy Scriptures.
While the proper use of the World Wide Web has the potential of uniting individuals from all over the world in a peaceful manner, its misuse has resulted in divisiveness and the creation of a “cancel culture” based upon a “woke” ideology, with no respect for objective truth or honest debate. This results in a technological enslavement, where a tendency to conformity often becomes the norm. As a result, the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) are too often replaced by four popular vices (indiscretion, bias, hedonism, and cowardliness). What’s “trending” in social media terms becomes the norm for success to many in our hedonistic, popular culture. The number of “likes” one may accrue on a Facebook post is the standard some believe is a signal of acceptance. Often, a proliferation of “likes” is merely a sign that several individuals desperately desire to conform to whatever the woke ideology of the day might be.
During my tenure as an elementary public school teacher for 29 years, I often posted a motto on the classroom wall: “What is popular is not always right; what is right is not always popular.” I tried to instill this motto in my students through my personal interactions and the lessons I taught in the classroom. Adhering to the principles of righteousness and justice is applicable at all stages of life, but it’s especially important to form virtuous habits during childhood and adolescence so these habits can become ingrained, reinforced, and perpetuated throughout the rest of our lives. Cheating on an exam, stealing from a fellow employee, engaging in extramarital affairs, or plagiarizing the work of others are just a few examples of behaviors that may provide instant gratification. Frequently, each of these vices may have started in one’s youth with “a little white lie,” which, if unchecked, gradually evolves into much more serious offenses.
Satisfying one’s arbitrary feelings in an imprudent, irresponsible manner can adversely impact the direction of one’s life in the blink of an eye. For example, anyone can become an instant victim of a careless drunk driver. All our decisions and actions have consequences. While we may not intentionally set out to hurt another human being, imprudent decisions and actions may have lifelong, adverse consequences. On the other hand, making judicious, moral decisions and leading temperate lives based on the principles of honesty, compassion, and integrity will help us serve society in many noble ways, depending on the God-given, vocational gifts we choose to employ. As the Bible reminds us, ‘The truth will set you free.” Your personal interactions on a micro-level can gradually transform the world, one person at a time, into a global society of truth, justice, and peace.
Developing self-mastery requires patience and fortitude. My late mother, a child of the Depression, always told me that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Her encouragement helped me to persevere in achieving two master’s degrees (in music education and psychology) and a doctoral degree in organizational leadership. With the help of God, I have persevered, receiving my first master’s degree in 1985, and my most recent master’s in 2019. The longer I live, the more I humbled I become because I realize there’s always so much more to learn, from a moral, pedagogical, and philosophical perspective.
Finally, while we seek justice and truth, there are times when these moral virtues must also be tempered by the virtues of compassion, humility, mercy, and forgiveness. We possess a concupiscent nature, which means we all have the propensity to engage in behavior that offends God and others. Yet each day starts anew—another gift from God. We can choose to make amends, to reform our lives, and to impart forgiveness to those who may have offended us. In turn, we must also humbly ask others for their forgiveness. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule is timeless and applicable to everyone, regardless of one’s cultural, ethnic, religious, or ideological background. We are all equal in the sight of our Creator.
Anne Marie Vale, Ph.D., Rhode Island
What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?
We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.
Send your advice, along with your full name, state, and contact information to NextGeneration@epochtimes.com or mail it to: Next Generation, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001