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It's Not Moral

A Girl and Her Gun: It's Not Moral

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Not Moral

I have recently had the revelation that I attach moral value to ideas or situations that do not require a moral judgement.

I have known for a long time that I was a rule follower and that I took that behavior to the most literal and extreme measure.  I didn't analyze why or question it, it just was who I was.  I didn't just follow the rules though, I believed that not following them was morally wrong and made a statement as to the kind of person I was.  I was completely perplexed by people who claimed to be moral, but broke rules or laws.  I had totally acquiesced my thinking to some made up set of standards that hang on the walls of every kindergarten room.  My parents, the schools, the government told me what to think and how to act and I never questioned it.  Not once did I say, is that true for me?  Do I believe that?  I did believe it, to my core, but it was not based on anything that came from me and it never occurred to me that I could reject their standards.

For me there is a long list of reasons why.  I was in an abusive home. A very abusive home.  My mother liked things a certain way.  An EXACT way.  She didn't just say the hair brush goes there.  It went in a specific direction at an exact angle and if I or my brother were off just millimeter the price to be paid was high.  Unfortunately, my mother was an alcoholic so often times she would forget the angle she told me. Our conversations might look like this...

Mom- Why the hell did you put the brush there?  How many god damn times have I told you that fucking brush doesn't go there?

Me- But yesterday you said...

Mom-Don't question me. Don't ever fucking question me.

Followed by some kind of beating probably with that same brush.

Guess who learned very early not to question even if I knew the person was wrong?  Guess who grew up hating cussing and violence?? Guess who craved peace and calm so much she just learned not to feel?

I didn't have the luxury of being a rebellions teen.  I didn't get to explore in college and figure out what was real and what wasn't.  I was grown up by the time I was 10.  I graduated high school a year early and went to college.  I needed out of my house and I was committed to never returning.  I was a college professor by the time I was 26. I was very focused and very serious.  I did exactly what I was told because the consequences were to great for me not to. 

For me morality was what I was told it was even though the people telling me clearly were not behaving in a moral fashion.

Much of the craziness that has shown up in these posts over the past year stem from me placing a moral value on my actions, actions that have no moral standard. I, for the first time, began to question what I thought I knew.  When I realized that I had no idea what I believed to be right and wrong, I made a conscious and concerted effort to figure it out.  I questioned everything and in that process I waivered.  I might stand up to say a rude anonymous poster and then take it back when someone said I wasn't being compassionate.  I realized right away that I wasn't sure if I should have stood up or not.  I wasn't looking for approval, I was honestly lost and anxious. The anxiety didn't come from someone disagree with me; it came from my own sense of not knowing what I believed to be the right thing in that situation. The lack of foundation caused me to question, but I didn't question my beliefs, I questioned my worth. I had placed a moral value on a non-moral situation.

In my awareness of my own tendencies, I have started to notice when other people attach moral arguments to their behaviors or that of others.  My teenager is famous for this.  She has what I would call a very high moral standard, the problem is, it is totally misguided.  She doesn't get disappointed that she got a 98 instead of 100, she decides she is a total failure at life because of it.  No matter how many times my husband and I tell her, she is doing fine and that it is her honest effort that matters, she never hears us.  She has so internalized her belief  that anything less than perfection is a moral failure that she can not conduct herself in any other manner, no matter how hard she tries. 

I have often heard people say, it doesn't matter what other people think.  You have to do what is best for you and not worry about others.  I have heard it and heard it and it's true, but I don't think that is the problem.  I don't think any of us care what others think.  The problem isn't that we care what they think, it is that we falsely believe we know what we think.

I don't care what others think of me. Approval from others is a vale covering my own uncertainty. It is the conditioning of my mind so deep that the set of values I instinctively react from are essentially not actually the ones I believe in and that contradiction is where the problem lies.

I had a conversation with a lovely, lovely woman on FB this morning.  She told me she respected how I can tactfully have conversations with people who disagree with me on gun issues and that she wished she had more of that.  I am not going to get into the specifics, but she felt like she should be more forthcoming with that fact that she carries a gun.  Her ultimate argument was, "I was raised to believe honestly is the best policy."   Her conflict isn't that she is looking for approval or trying to please others, it is that she believes she is conducting herself in a manner that is contrary to her beliefs about being honest. I would argue it is her beliefs about honesty that are the problem and not her behavior. She has attached a moral judgement to a non-moral behavior.

Her courage to decide for herself what is best for her and her family and sticking to that truth, that is the moral behavior not whether or not she is "honest" with her co-workers about something that is none of their business in the first place. I would say, morally speaking, her behavior is right on.

That is the moral standard to which we all should be true.

 **NOTE** Please know that I truly have no problems associated with my childhood.  I promise you I have long sense dealt with those issues way back in my late 20's.  The attack a year ago has brought to light things that I need to work out like not being able to fight and in my efforts to overcome years of conditioning I have been able to find and pin point things from my childhood that contributed to that mindset, but there is no pain in doing so.  Those wounds are healed.  I share as a way to help you understand my journey and how I got to a place of total compliance, but I assure those memories are not a source of pain for me, quite the opposite.


At May 30, 2012 at 7:25 AM , Blogger Stephen said...

And here my grandchild is living through much as you did all those years ago...I'm sorry about your abuse, but as you said, you've long ago dealt with it and I believe you're now a stronger person for it. I so wish my little one were old enough to read your blog...God bless.

At May 30, 2012 at 7:27 AM , Blogger Mazie said...

Bravo! I applaud your inquiry and discovery! What a moving and powerful post this is. I feel empowered by reading this, truly. So many people can find themselves in what you've written here. You just rock!

At May 30, 2012 at 7:34 AM , Anonymous Lynne F said...

You are one tough cookie, brava!

At May 30, 2012 at 7:42 AM , Blogger Paul Erickson said...

Those wounds may have healed, but they HAVE left scars. It is those scars that you deal with. Some scars may be the reminder about not fighting back. Some scars may be the feelings about moral behavior or judgment.

They're healed, but they are still part of you and something, it would appear, you've learned to deal with and work around and incorporated into who you are.

Good job! :)

What I find hard is trying to be the moral person and do what is right while doing something many see as immoral. My moral duty is to protect myself and my family, but my chosen method of doing so may mean the immoral actions of carrying a firearm and possibly ending somebody's life. I have that squared away in my head and will do what is necessary. But at what cost to the moral issue of not taking a life and carrying a *gasp* gun?

At May 30, 2012 at 8:07 AM , Blogger God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

Two quotes I really like...

"Test everything. Hold on to the good." ~ 1st Thessalonians 5:21

"DO NOT confuse my compassion for tolerance." ~ My wife, said many times...

We can have compassion and concern, but that doesn't mean we're abandoning our foundation or beliefs...

Dann in Ohio

At May 30, 2012 at 8:24 AM , Blogger Tango Juliet said...

As for me, the older I get, the more easily it has become to offer the world (and what it thinks of me) an upraised middle finger.*

You're on the right track!! Good for you!

*Kids, don't try this at home.

At May 30, 2012 at 8:29 AM , Blogger North said...

You are reprogramming yourself. Consciously. Not many people can do that like you have.

You have been for a while now, really. Keep learning from others and from yourself. You are not stagnant - you keep growing better.

Your blog and the connections that you have made because of your negative experience are truly turning out to be a positive boost to your life. You are lucky.

At May 30, 2012 at 9:44 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I am very sorry for your granddaughter. She is on my heart daily. Praying as you know, always.

At May 30, 2012 at 9:45 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Thank you Mazie! You rock too:)

At May 30, 2012 at 9:45 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...


At May 30, 2012 at 9:47 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Every person who carries a gun should take the time to address those moral aspects and figure out for sure where they stand. It is a personal journey that the individule must know inside their own being.

I have no such moral conflict about carrying a gun or taking a life in defense of my own.

At May 30, 2012 at 9:48 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Lol, that's next on my bucket list:)

At May 30, 2012 at 9:50 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this -- I drove many of the same roads (in my early teens, I deliberately and carefully selected 'new' role models for myself, rather than accept those I was born to). I find myself much more patient than most of those around me (now cresting the hill at 43), because I've learned not to stress about a belief unless I truly understand why I've made it mine.

At May 30, 2012 at 9:51 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I am lucky. I am very, very lucky. I have stepped up and fought for my happiness, but the support, the people, the training I have, thenpeople(yes, I know I said that twice)...I am extremely lucky.

At May 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Smart man!

At May 30, 2012 at 2:35 PM , Blogger Larry said...

The hardest thing to do is realize that everything you know is wrong.

I mean, I imagine that was the hardest thing for all of the rest of you. I, on the other hand, am never wrong (although occasionally I am mistaken). :D

And now, I have this bridge for sale...

At May 30, 2012 at 2:48 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Lol. I am not in the market for a bridge...however I completely believe that you are perfect, never made a mistake, 100% flawless...

At May 30, 2012 at 3:45 PM , Blogger tanksoldier said...

"I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do." -- RAH

"Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level." -- RAH

At May 30, 2012 at 4:08 PM , Blogger lotta joy said...

I find it odd that today, you and I declared an internal war and emptied our childhood onto our blogs.

At May 30, 2012 at 4:19 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Just went to your blog...amazing, truly amazing. I will be back!!

As I said over there, I have never, not once allowed myself an all consuming cry. I am not sure I know how.

At May 30, 2012 at 4:20 PM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

I love these. Thank you for taking the time to put them here!

At May 30, 2012 at 6:07 PM , Blogger Broken Andy said...

Alright, that's going in my quotes file.

"DO NOT confuse my compassion for tolerance."
-- Dan in Ohio's wife

At May 30, 2012 at 6:15 PM , Blogger Broken Andy said...

First, excellent post!

Slightly off topic, but regarding your daughter's view of herself:

"She doesn't get disappointed that she got a 98 instead of 100, she decides she is a total failure at life because of it."

That's not uncommon, my daughter has a form of this problem. One thing that is often not taught to us well is how to succeed in the face of failure.

"If you fall down seven times, get up 8 times." -- Jigoro Kano

At May 30, 2012 at 7:27 PM , Blogger 45er said...

Just more inspiration from you in even more areas. I can't express enough how much this means to people out there struggling to know if there is "another side." Thanks, Agirl.

At May 30, 2012 at 7:43 PM , Blogger RabidAlien said...

Good post. I can relate.

At May 30, 2012 at 11:48 PM , Anonymous Tactical Tom said...

Great post! Reminds me of so many things.

First, has your daughter ever truly failed at something?
I mean got a failing grade or been unable to accomplish a goal.
I never really failed at anything as a kid. School was a breeze and I didn't really play any sports.
The reason was b/c no one ever pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of. When I got to college and actually had to apply myself, it was hell. I nearly quit many an occasion and it made me depressed.
I had never delt w/ failure. I didn't know how. Getting a low grade or not understanding a math problem used to make me cry and no amount of reassurance from my parents made me feel diferent.
I wish I had failed at something as a child so I could've learned how to deal w/ it. To this day difficulty makes me want to quit and I have to push hard to not stop. That was one of the reasons I went to the SEAL Adventure challenge. To learn to not quit.

Second, while my abuse was nowhere near your level, it has been pointed out to me how it still affects my life today.
I have had many roommates point out how quiet I am around the house. I don't make any noise in the morning and half the time they don't know when I'm right behind them. This is b/c my step-father always screamed at me and my brothers for making to much noise. We learned quickly to move and do things silently.

Thirdly, I would refer you to Rory Miller's book again, as he illustrates beautifully how our self image relates to violence.
Both receiving and dishing it out.
He explains how a person's self image can be destroyed by a violent encounter and they may never recover. Also, how "disrespecting" a person's self image can lead that person to respond w/ violence.

Sorry about the long comment but you inspired me!

Thanks for the read and listen.

At May 31, 2012 at 2:59 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Hi. My daughter has not truly failed. She was home schooled and decided she wanted to go to school, so at 13 she enter jr high mid year and was instantly liked. She is a straight A student...National Junior Honor Society, she was voted class President by the school, she gets every part in plays she auditions for, same with singing. She didn't make the Volleyball team and that was a disappointment, but nothing huge. She is well liked and even though she is a perfectionist, she is a really happy kid. If she gets 98 she doesn't throw a fit or act like a jerk, she just decides she must study more. Sometimes I won't let her. Sometimes I say 98 is great, let's go get a Starbucks:)

I don't think people realize the long term effects of abuse. I feel lucky that the way I internalized it worked in my favor. Yes, I was miss nicey nice, but I was truly happy and until last March, I didn't know I had a problem. Now trying to get over the niceness has been a struggle:)

I am sorry for the parts of your childhood that were painful. I really appreciate you sharing and as soon as I am done with Grossman's book, I will read the one you recommended.

At May 31, 2012 at 3:00 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Why thank you kind sir!

At May 31, 2012 at 3:02 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Thanks Broken Andy. I actually got a couple emails from others who said the same thing. It might not be as big a deal as I think. Could just be her developing. All of her friends are exactly like her...very good students and very hard on themselves, but they are giggly and goofy like teenagers should be.

Thanks forthe insight.


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