Getting Unstuck from Moral Mud

In my journey to be a better person and save the world, I’ve gotten myself all stuck in morality mud.

It started when I read about utilitarian philosophies and the concept that I may be morally required to do all the good I can for others up until such point that helping others any further would do harm to me and my family greater than the good it would do for others.

With so many people living in absolute poverty in many corners of the globe, it seems that there is almost no practical end to this requirement for someone living in the comforts of the Western middle class. I either reduce my family to a much lower level of living in order to save the lives of others, or I’m a morally bad person.

This doesn’t feel quite right, and many have already pointed out this problem of no moral middleground between “not required” and mandatory (e.g., optional or desirable). But, despite a good bit of reading, thinking, and searching, I haven’t found a convincing argument that pulls me completely out of it.

What to do, then? My wife has already made it clear that we are not moving into a tent.

I rediscovered the solution on an index card. I had answered a similar question for myself a while back but forgotten about it.

I gave myself permission to be imperfect and to just do my best while I continue the work of figuring it all out. I will definitely keep reading what different religions and philosophies have to say about it, but the key is to not stress about having it figured out just right now.

If there’s one common thread through what I’ve read (with exception of maybe Ayn Rand), it’s that we owe our fellow people a lot, and that I can probably do more than what I’m doing now to help. I can strive to give more, and I can take small, concrete, steps now to do that, and I won’t be going wrong.

In parallel, I can continue to study, reflect, and search for that perfect answer. I just won’t let it stop me from doing obviously good things, now.

I am now sufficiently unstuck, and I hope this might help you, too, if you ever have a similar struggle.

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