Politics has often been called “the art of the possible.” Most experienced political leaders recognize the necessity for compromise if you are ever going to accomplish anything in the political arena. Good leaders know that they must balance the needs and concerns of many different kinds of people if they are going to achieve the most optimum outcome for the greatest number.But this article is not about political choices in particular. Rather, it is about moral choice in all dimensions of life, whether public or private. By the time that we have a few decades of real life experiences behind us, most of us have learned that we sometimes find ourselves in situations that present no ideal choices. Sometimes these situations are the result of our own past choices, which we wish that we could change but know that we cannot. Sometimes these situations are not the result of any choices we personally have made. They are the result of other people’s choices, or of circumstances larger than ourselves which are nobody’s fault.
Regardless, we are sometimes forced to choose the greater good or the lesser evil. No matter what our faith or philosophy, no step-by-step instruction manual for life exists. Our creeds give us guidelines to live by, but it is up to us to apply them to any given situation. Some people refer to this as relative morality, but I don’t like that term, because it has come to suggest that right and wrong are in the eye of the beholder alone. We have gotten the idea that one belief is as good as another, or that all systems of thought are equally good.
While all non-aggressive, non-violent people should be allowed their own beliefs, it is important to recognize that not all of those beliefs are equally true or good, and that we can learn to discern between them by the processes of higher reason, and by looking honestly at the consequences of them. I prefer to acknowledge that there are absolute values, but that we must sometimes make a priority of which one takes precedence in a given situation. The details are never easy to work out, but it is important to recognize that there is a difference between good and evil. Like north and south, the extremes are polar opposites, and we can never find our way to a better place if we lose our moral compasses.