Everyday Moral Choices

Article / Produced by TOW Project
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A second model recognizes that most ethical decisions in our daily lives and work are made instantly, often under pressure and without much room for forethought. They are the product of habits of a lifetime and also shaped by the cultures of places we work and the peer groups and faith communities we belong to. They are influenced by the extent to which Christian virtues and character have been molded into the core of our beings. This is regular Christian discipleship. This is not to suggest that moral reasoning doesn’t also accompany this emphasis on the importance of being as the foundation for our doing. Within the virtuous life, there is still a place for understanding rules and calculating consequences. But in this case, it is with rules and consequences subordinated to virtues and viewed as servants rather than masters. This reverses the priority illustrated in our previous diagram:

Character-priority (ethical development) model

Become a virtuous person

Develop a virtuous character so you will have the wisdom and fortitude to obey the rules and seek the best outcomes


↓ ↓

Determine what is the right thing to do when the situation is unclear

Determine the applicable rules in each situation (commands)

Discern the best outcome in each situation (consequences)

This is not to suggest that emphasis on virtues doesn’t also give rise to moral dilemmas, because we can find competing virtues themselves pulling in different directions. For example, courage and prudence can pull in different directions, or justice and peace, or loyalty and truth. Making good moral decisions in these cases is less about seeing one right answer because there is probably not just one. Making good moral decisions is more about seeing the alternatives as tensions that can provide a stimulus towards balanced Christian responses.