Italy is pretty much the same.
But how come that in countries where most people are very religious there is such a big rift between what people believe is wrong and what they actually do?
In this post I will not be talking about religious morality, rather I’ll be focusing on how to eliminate (or at least reduce) the rift between what we know is “right” (whatever that is) and what we actually do.
A famous biblical passage says something that really gets to the core of this issue: the passage is in the book of Psalms and it says something along the lines of “unify my heart”.
If there is a rift between what a person believes is right and what he or she actually does it’s because within this person there is fragmentation rather than unification.
If one believes, for example, that pornography is wrong and he struggles with that it’s because this person actually likes pornography.
Such person has an idea, on an intellectual level, that pornography is wrong but a force within this person actually wants to watch pornography.
This doesn’t just apply to religious or biblical morality, it actually applies to all situations in which we have an idea that we shouldn’t be doing a certain thing but, deep within us, there is a force that craves the very thing we intellectually believe is wrong.
For example, for several decades I had an idea that I should have been eating the right food but I was overweight and I was eating lousy stuff.
Why? Evidently because I liked eating the wrong food.
In other words there was a rift between what I knew was right and what I actually loved and desired.
My eating habits started to change when I stumbled upon an idea by the famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He talks about the idea of getting rid of such habits as heavy drinking, drugs and so on by learning to link more pleasure to having energy and vitality than to indulging in drinking, overeating etc.
In other words I learned to love eating the right thing such that there is no more rift between what I desire and what I know is the right food to eat.
And so I eliminated the split between what I knew was right and what I desire and the fragmentation that existed within myself became a unification such that every part of me is congruent and desires to have energy, vitality and great health.
And the same applies to every area of our life in which there is a separation within ourselves between what we know is right and what we do.
Rules or even principles are not enough to stop us from doing what’s wrong
The problem here is that if you want to do something quote-unquote “immoral” (whatever that means) and the only thing that is stopping you is a rule (or even a principle) you will end up doing that thing sooner or later.
That is why most Filipinos (in this blog I am talking about the Philippines but the same logic applies to everyone) officially believe that alcohol abuse is bad, corruption is wrong, violence, materialism, gossip and many other things, that are pretty common in the Philippines, are inappropriate but these very things are very deeply rooted in the Filipino culture.
So I believe that, as long as the only reason why people try to resist their urges to do what’s quote-unquote “immoral” is because an external authority says so, and they fail to understand why those things are bad and not inherently fulfilling, there is no way people can truly be moral.
Dwell on the benefits of doing what’s quote-unquote right
There is actually an interesting passage in the Bible (which is the religious book most Filipinos believe in), but the same logic applies even if someone doesn’t believe the Bible or any other religious book, and this passage says something along the lines of ‘the Creator teaches you to “benefit yourself”‘. This concept can be found in the book of prophet Isaiah.
If you grasp that practicing self-control, abstaining from heavy drinking, drugs, violence, cheating on your spouse etc is something that benefits you, you stop desiring these things and doing the right thing becomes automatic.
A similar idea can be found in many motivational books.
So, regardless of whether one is religious or not the key to doing what’s quote-unquote “right” (whatever that means for you) is when we learn to dwell on the benefits of parting with negative and toxic habits (some of which fall into the category of what the Bible and other religious books call immoral, like overeating and overdrinking, doing drugs or whatever) thereby trascending and outgrowing them rather than simply trying to put up a hard fight to stay away from things that we, deep within, crave and, secretly, like doing simply because some external authority says so.
And, if you are a Christian, the only way you can accept and internalize what your religion says is wrong is by understanding why this is the case and dwelling on the benefits of being quote-unquote moral.
In other words, whether you are religious or not, what’s right has to resonate with the innermost core of your being such that you naturally and effortlessly lean toward doing what’s right and doing what’s right is automatic and effortless.
And, actually, if you grasp the whys, and dwell on the benefits of parting with the quote-unquote “immoral” things you will not even be acting moral, rather you would be aligning yourself with what’s moral, such that what’s quote-unquote “right” and what you want become one thing.
Even the idea of principles over rules is not enough
This actually goes even beyond the idea of principles over rules.
People who follow a principle don’t need a lot of rules but that doesn’t always mean that they necessarily love the principle or fully grasp it.
For example, one who is a Christian might grasp the principle that God (if he believes, like most Filipinos do) wants his followers to dress with modesty. Such person, if he has grasped this overarching principle, doesn’t need to be specifically told what to put on and what not to wear (this is just an example of a principle, the first one that comes to mind…I don’t care how you dress….).
But, while such person might understand this general principle and be driven by it in his choice of dressing and grooming, this does not necessarily imply that he or she is aligned with it.
So, I believe that true morality comes from being aligned with what’s quote-unquote “right” or moral and from desiring to do what’s moral, such that there is no rift between what’s right or moral and what this person wants to do.
So, the bottom line is: those who try to act moral but secretely want to do the opposite are fragmented.
The opposite of fragmentation is being “unified”.
The reason why I drink wine in moderation and eat in moderation is not because some external authority told me but because I have no desire to do these things because, as I said, I love the idea of being healthy and having plenty of energy.
The reason why I will never leave my wife to go with someone else is because I understand and appreciate that the key to happiness is changing myself not changing partner, because wherever I go I’ll bring me with me….and because I love my wife.
So the only way to embody true morality is by eliminating the rift between what is right and what we desire.
Rules or even principles might stop us for a while but it is extremely difficult to be truly moral from a position of fragmentation or, in other words, from a position where a part of us believes that something is wrong but another part of us secretly desires to do that very thing.
True morality is the result of learning how to love what’s right…..whatever that means for you.