Friday, July 13, 2012

Ethics and Elementary School Children

I was discussing ethics with my daughter the other day.  She was telling me about a girl she's known since she was 2, who routinely does things to hurt her feelings, as she did recently.  Hannah was then telling me that if someone else made that girl cry, well, she deserved it.

I tried to convey to Hannah that this is not a true statement.  No one "deserves" to be hurt.  And even if another person is mean to us, we can choose to be kind and loving, even if they don't deserve that.  It's the best definition of Christianity I know: treating others better than they have earned.

I wrote about this conversation on my Facebook status the day it happened, and got a variety of responses.  One, from a dear, dear friend suggested I introduce the concept of Karma.  There is one problem with that: I don't believe in Karma.  I don't believe that people get what they give.  I have seen many examples of people who are despicable, spiritually speaking, and have succeeded in life by all external measures: social, financial, professional.  People on whom I have wished a rash in hidden places have prospered in all visible manners.  I attribute this to the fact that the universe is NOT looking out for justice, because the universe is a collection of stars and planets that is not conscious of the behavior of its inhabitants. And I know that the conscious being I recognize is not in the business of making sure that my version of justice is done.  Therefore, I am left with trying to teach my child grace.  I don't believe I am equal to this task.  I mentioned the wish-rash, right?

I don't think life is fair.  I don't think everything happens for a reason.  I don't think everything is going to work out to my advantage, if I just wait and see it through.  What I do think is that I can make myself satisfied with what happens if I work hard enough, cognitively speaking.  But I'm not good at expressing these thoughts to a 7 year old.

I want it to be true that if you are good and kind, the world will be good and kind back to you.  I want it to be true that if you look out for the interests of others, other will look out for your interests as well.  I also want it to be true that if I think happy thoughts I can fly to the second star to the right, but I know that's not happening anytime soon. Still, I try to be the change I want to see in others as often as I can, and I try to teach my child to be the same.

However, I also teach my child to tell people to Buzz Off when they are overtly mean, because there are only so many cheeks that kid has, after all.


  1. I like the saying "People rarely get what they deserve," and also support the idea of teaching kids that life is not fair, but it is super way more enjoyable when you are putting kindness and joy out into the world instead of adding to the suck.

    1. For, sooth, the world doth suck enough already!