Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 'Good,' the 'Bad,' and the 'Useless'

From a discussion with some radical unschoolers and pertaining to principles of 'moral relativity' and 'moral pluralism' expressed in child-rearing, and why I don't have any 'good boy's or 'good job's or 'bad' behaviour in my home (and am still neither a moral relativist nor a moral pluralist), I give you this...

I wanted to share that while I don't have an aversion to the use of the words 'good' and 'bad' in regular parlance, when I began a study of nonviolent communication, I realised that I had personal baggage relating to those words. I do have a strong moral compass, though, so navigating my language and thoughts to incorporate my values and also honour the intentions of others while still having the freedom to evaluate- well, that was a task!

What I did discover about myself is that while I am innately a creative person, I was very uncreative in the way I was viewing and expressing my evaluations. It also became clear to me that this limitation was not very helpful to my children when they were trying to solve difficulties and communicate with me and others. So, I eliminated 'good' and 'bad,' and forced myself to use more accurate words to describe my evaluations. Instead of 'bad' I used 'harmful,' 'injurious,' and also completely reframed of my view of behaviour that included much more observation, validation, and exploration of potential options- behaviours to try, empathy/sympathy with intention, etc....

Through having done this, I became more selective about what adheres to/contravenes a code of morality. In my opinion, there are very few actions that can be evaluated within a moral code- at least the one I understand. Most actions are derived of preference. I think that intention must accompany any act that directly contravenes what is moral; for instance, killing a man could be either moral or immoral depending on the intention of the one killing. I have a moral impetus to defend my children, and if that necessitated killing, I would do it and fit within the precepts of what I think is moral- even though if my intention was malicious, killing would most certainly be immoral. With this sort of thinking, it becomes much easier for *me* to evaluate what others are expressing through their actions and words, and to communicate in ways that are much clearer to everyone.

I would not do away with morality as though it were simply a matter of personal value; but I am still much more selective about what-fits-where now than I was previously. That, and it has been very freeing for me to not hold others hostage to my preferences.

It is also interesting to me how personality plays so much into how this process unfolds. I am INTJ with developed feeling (I'll spare you the unfortunate circumstances that necessitated this albeit valuable trait), and strong tendency toward extraverted judgment. My natural tendency to evaluate and 'judge' the validity of everything outside myself was crippling me and my relationships. It was necessary for me to learn the appropriate application of morality vs. preference in order for me to grow and mature, and necessary for me to take a hard line with myself (via self-evaluation, beyond my extraverted judgment) to enact the essential habit reformation.

Ds1 is like me, and has needed the same training, although in a very different way since with the knowledge I have acquired, I can make the environment so much gentler than I had as a child, and within which I had to enforce my new-found values, and he learns without shame. Ds2 and ds3 seem to need none of this because it comes to them naturally and they just tend to view themselves and others with compassion and willingness to observe (rather than judge) and participate when they feel inclined; ds2 is also an amazing 'judge' of character. Ds3 will probably need the most guidance with choosing friends because he is so willing and trusting; he'd probably believe someone who told him to come and that they wouldn't hurt him.

The interesting thing is that I don't think that I'll use the words 'good' and 'bad' to help ds3 with this since they are so vague as to not really be of use except in casual (or philosophical, lol) conversation. Certainly the concepts of what is ultimately 'good' and what is ultimately not must be clearly delineated, though, and maybe my vocabulary will end up being more graphic, and potentially more concerning than the use of such vague terms as 'good and 'bad' might be to some. Maybe I miss out on the 'short-hand' effect of those words and expose myself, or lose some, but in any case, in my commitment to change my communicative habit, I also committed to attempting to build-in understanding between people through creative vocabulary where not doing so would have rendered the point of communication useless, imo.

So Suneal, ask me how I am today, lol!


suneal said...

Sarah said:
"So Suneal, ask me how I am today, lol!"

Well, I undertake this task with great fear and trepidation, lest I quench the flames of all further discussion with the frozen touch of my icy conversation...here goes...how..are....you...to...day?

sarah said...

Not bad.

;) lol

suneal said...

So, at least you are consistent with your post, you are not "bad." But then neither are you "good." How can you be? Are you neither "hot" nor "cold" also? (Rev 3:15) Thank you for the ultra vagueness reserved for me that you seem to oh so carefully spare your kids of:) It is so...pleasant to hear from you.

Sarah said...

Actually, I am inconsistent, but I thought you might find the fact that my Canadian greeting overrode my sensibility and true response amusing. :)

But seriously, I am hopeful today, Suneal, although discouraged at the same time... strange and contradictory I suppose; I spend a lot of time feeling that way. I never respond to 'how are you' with that though, and I'm not sure how others would take it if I did. That and if I did say that, I would be committing to qualifying it, which I usually wouldn't want to do; so 'not bad' and 'fine' seem to serve my need for privacy and the other person's need for little to no information/intimate communication quite well.

suneal said...

Well, I also I have been inconsistent with my posting on Canadian greetings, and when asked by some old friends how I am doing, I gave the proverbial "good," not once but at least three times!!!

But I think your second response to be very human. So you do have a pulse, and unlike the other Canadian mannequins I so often meet, you feel, you hurt, you rejoice, and all at the same time!

Surprisingly, I am glad you shared your heart with me, it takes the distant vagueness away and let's you be you.