Quora Question: When we teach our children ethics and morality, are we helping them to live better lives, or are we potentially hindering their chances of success in our society?
Your question implies that we have a choice to make: act in an ethical and moral way or succeed in society. Is this really true?
Yes, there are examples of people who act in an unethical and immoral way and seem to be successful. But, if you examine these cases closely you will see something different. In many cases, you will see unhappiness, a lack of meaning and purpose, stress, anxiety, or worse.
Aristotle made the case that acting in accordance with the virtues insured both a better life and a more successful life. But, he, like many philosophers, did not define success purely in monetary terms.
A more contemporary account of the same idea is offered by Barry Schwartz in his book Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do The Right Thing.
So, yes when we teach our children ethics and morality we are helping them to live better lives. We should also teach them that success is a term that is often narrowly defined to include money and things. But, success is different than that.
Being successful means having a positive impact on the world around you, using the unique skills you have to help people, being a caring, compassionate person. Being a loyal friend, a positive influence on your family, children, community.
Being successful means recognizing that wants are not the same as needs. You may want power, fame, fancy cars and houses, lots of money. You don’t need any of these things. In many cases, they are impediments to your own well-being and happiness. As such, they are not contributing to your success but hindering it.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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