• Uplifting Education

Balancing Moral and Ethical Education

Moral and ethical education should strike a balance between love and rules. It may seem that acting from a loving heart and acting in obedience to rules are quite opposite from each other. After all, since the nature of love is to be concerned with the welfare of others, the expressions of a loving heart are compassionate and forgiving. On the other hand, ethical rules are by nature demanding, fair, strict, and uncompromising.

Nevertheless, these two seemingly opposite components of moral and ethical education are complementary and pursue the same purpose -- to foster goodness. The love that nurtures and cultivates a child's heart instills the motivation and desire to be good. Ethical rules define good conduct and guide the course of training to be good. Love and concern for others can powerfully motivate a person to follow rules of good conduct. Being strict with ourselves about standards makes us reliable and better able to relate with honesty and fairness.

Cultivation of heart and education in ethical standards should balance each other. If moral education emphasizes rules and is lacking in love, it becomes excessively harsh and formal. People raised in this way may be disciplined and reliable but lacking in compassion and sensitivity. They may become self-righteous and end up harming others. They may have difficulty expressing or receiving love.

Education that is strong on love but weak on standards, however, can result in young people who are undisciplined, spoiled, and irresponsible. Even though they might be well endowed with compassion for others, they will not have the strength of character to enter into faithful and dependable relationships in which sacrifice, perseverance, and loyalty are required.

Children do not develop responsibility when parents and teachers are too strict and controlling, nor do they develop responsibility when parents and teachers are permissive. Children learn responsibility when they have opportunities to learn valuable social and life skills for good character in an atmosphere of kindness, firmness, dignity, and respect. ― Jane Nelsen