“I believe that in healthy humans there is an inner compass that guides right from wrong. It may get modified through various lenses of philosophy, religion, and culture, but I think seeking peace and integrity and not causing harm are pretty universal. Unfortunately, it is also possible to get estranged from that compass, so it is good to stay in balance and in touch with it as much as we can.”Unknown
Feelings or Morals?
As a therapist and mindset coach, I speak with many people that feel lost and stuck in life. They often have a difficult time making choices and knowing what the right thing to do is. I can relate to this as I have had my own fair share of difficulty determining whether or not my moral compass should be ruled by my in-the-moment emotions or whether it should be strong and steadfast.
The answer seems pretty simple- our choices should be guided by an unwavering moral compass, not by emotions. The reality is that feelings, no matter how strong, cloud the direction we should take.
Let’s say that you prefer to do what you want to do. “I’ll do what I feel like doing.” We have a right to do whatever we want to do, when we want to do it, right? Feel your feelings and just go with it.
But isn’t that mindset like playing with fire? If we walk around doing only what we feel like doing, what will we accomplish?
Hatred, laziness, greed, jealously, insecurity, pride, selfishness, bitterness, the desire to fit in… these are all feelings that can lead to broken relationships, theft, drug abuse, fraud, violence, murder, mental illness, and chaos.
Living in a world that only honors people’s feelings and neglects the viewpoint of right vs. wrong doesn’t sit well with me. This is not to say that feelings are invalid and to be dismissed. Feelings can be intense and need to be spoken about and validated in order for them to be let go successfully. Feelings can be felt without being acted upon.
What if I just feel like taking something that doesn’t belong to me? Or if I say hateful things to someone because they are different than me? Maybe I feel angry so I hit the person closest to me or I lie whenever it suits me?
Aren’t those things wrong morally?
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”Leo Tolstoy, A Confession
Challenge: Feel your feelings and make the right choice based on your core values.
Let’s take a look at the core value of commitment. If we are to commit to something, it means that we dedicate ourselves to that person or thing. If we have committed ourselves to a new job or task, we get up everyday and do the best we can during the work day. It doesn’t matter if we are frustrated, tired, sad, or even happy- we are still going to head to work. Commitment is independent of feelings.
Core values like commitment are all independent of feelings. Integrity is another great example of this. Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. How many times have you thought “I don’t feel like doing this?” and you do it anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do? The thought “I don’t feel like doing this” is a feeling. If you went with that feeling every time you were tired and not feeling up to the task, there would be dishes in the sink, laundry and trash everywhere, and extra pounds on your waistline. Maybe you don’t even have a job because you don’t feel like it! Integrity, like commitment, is independent of feelings. If you have integrity, you can feel like you don’t want to do something, but you do it anyway because it is the right thing to do.
Fine Tuning Your Moral Compass
A moral compass includes our principles, values, and beliefs. In typical development, our early childhood caregivers teach us these principles, values, and beliefs. If you have experienced a break in attachment or early childhood trauma or neglect, you may have to start from scratch in developing your own moral compass.
Where do I start?
A solid moral compass includes core values that will eventually govern your behaviors. In order to begin the process of developing a moral compass, you will need to do some research to determine which core values you want to include in your compass. Before I list out some core values, let’s define the word values. If you value something, you hold it in high regard, pursue it, and even love it.
Here is a list of some core values:
- Selfless Service
Steps to Rethink Your Moral Compass
These are 15 core values, though there are hundreds of them! Follow these steps to start living by your own moral compass:
- Do your best to find the values that resonate with you.
- Rank them in order of importance.
- Write them down.
- Define them.
- Hang the values and the definitions everywhere you can see them- fridge, mirrors, car, desk, dresser.
- Make all of your choices align with these values.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. It will take time to develop the ability to match your choices and actions with your moral compass. Like anything new, it will require patience and practice.
Still stumped or looking for an example? Below is a list of 10 of my core values and their definitions. With a solid moral compass, I can make my choices align with those core values, even when it doesn’t feel good. I know what I stand for and knowing what I stand for helps me trust in myself and my choices.
My Core Values
- Integrity – doing the right thing even when no one is looking
- Honesty- speak the truth and act truthfully
- Loyalty- faithful and devoted to loved ones
- Courage- Being afraid of something and doing it anyway
- Self-Discipline- the ability to do what I think is right despite temptations to abandon my pursuit
- Forgiveness- deciding that someone who has wronged me doesn’t have to pay or be punished
- Joy- choosing to be happy even when things don’t go my way
- Selfless Service- being helpful and kind to others as well as serving others without expecting a reward or praise
- Humility- putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve
- Kindness- being friendly, generous, respectful and considerate of others
I started thinking about moral compass and values after reading Mark Divine’s book, Unbeatable Mind. I highly recommend it as a resource to help develop your moral compasss.
Side note: We love Amazon and participate in the Amazon Affiliate programs. If you are thinking about purchasing these books through the links above, we do get some credit. Thank you for understanding.
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health symptoms that are concerning or that are getting progressively worse, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Thrive is a proud provider of telehealth (tele-therapy). We offer HIPAA compliant video, phone, and text sessions for individuals, adults, and families struggling with mental health. Call 844-984-7483 or request a free, confidential screening online. If you would like help with developing your moral compass, contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose Skeeters, MA, LPC, PN2
Rose Skeeters is the CVO of Thrive: Mind/Body, LLC, an innovative mindset coaching & online counseling practice aimed at empowering motivated individuals to master every area of their life. She specializes in family & relationship counseling–helping couples, parents, & families get and stay on the same page. Rose is also the host of From Borderline to Beautiful, a podcast aimed at helping individuals with BPD, CPTSD, and EUPD find hope and help in their recovery journeys. Are you interested in working with Rose? Schedule a consult with her here or contact her today at Rose@thriveonlinecounseling.com.