Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people's
approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to
-Lao-tzu, 500 BC
The superior person thinks always of virtue; the common person
thinks of comfort.
Your choice between (1) happiness or wealth and (2) helping as
your highest purpose could have a profound impact on your entire life.
Keep in mind that few people are able to follow their highest values all
the time; the caring person is selfish in some ways, and the dedicated
hedonist occasionally helps others. However, without your highest
value in the forefront of your consciousness, day by day, your life is
not likely to be well directed. If selfish materialism continues to be
your dominant value, try reading Lerner's (1995) The Politics of
Meaning and Kozol's (1994) Amazing Grace (about the poverty and
problems of poor children in this country).
Conscience and Escape from One's Own Conscience
When we don't do what we feel is right (moral), we feel guilty. Our
conscience hurts. We feel self-contempt, according to Bandura (1977).
To avoid this discomfort, we usually do what is right (as we see it). But
sometimes when we want to do something against our values strongly
enough, we can deceive ourselves, "con" ourselves, so that we don't
feel badly about doing it. We humans have a variety of self-excusing,
guilt-escaping mechanisms (from Bandura, 1980b):
Moral justification --believing our actions are for a just cause.
"I stole to provide for my family" or "I lied to protect my friend"
or "I cheated because I just had to pass" or see statements #9
and #10 above.
Euphemistic labeling --using a mild term to hide the actual
harmfulness. "I took it" or "sort of borrowed" instead of stole.
"I messed them up a little" instead of brutally assaulted. "I
didn't tell him/her everything" instead of lied. "We have to take
care of our own country first" instead of disregarding others'
needs. "Freedom" is often a handy justification for doing
whatever you want to do; see #9 above.
Looking good by comparison --"I didn't cheat nearly as
much as John/Mary did." "A lot of millionaires don't pay any
taxes." "The rich in India don't give to their own poor, so why