So a teacher recently gave her students a scenario with the following moral dilemma:
An important and talented surgeon who has saved many lives in the past and will surely save many more in the future runs across an old man who has slipped and fallen under the cracking ice into a lake after trying unsuccessfully to save his puppy from drowning.
The old man is trapped and will freeze to death in short order.
Should the surgeon walk across the breaking ice and risk his own life to try and save the old man?
The vast majority of students' responded...that the surgeon should try and save the old man.
When asked why they thought that, most said because otherwise he would feel guilty afterwards.
Thinking about that it seems like a funny reason to do something dangerous, heroic, and maybe utterly stupid...so as not to feel guilty.
I guess that I would've thought people who would advocate for trying to save the old man would say something like
- Every life is valuable!
- Saving one person is like saving the world.
- Helping people even at our own risk or peril is what we do for our fellow human beings.
- We would want others to help us if we were in trouble, so we should do that for them.
While we can't judge someone else for how they react in situations of genuine moral conflict, we can teach the younger generation that doing something good for others is about more than just not feeling bad or guilty afterwards (for being lazy, selfish, or making the wrong call in the situation).
Making moral judgements is about choosing in every situation to try your best to do what's right, help people, be a good influence, take responsibility, and generally act selflessly, but not recklessly.
Regret stinks (and can be truly painful), but missing opportunities to live a good, meaningful life is much worse. ;-)
(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)