There’s an adage that a person’s life should not be judged by the worst thing he or she has ever done. Yet dynamics in our society seem to make people more vulnerable to such assessment. We seem to live in a “gotcha” moment, when a person is readily excoriated for saying the “wrong” thing. It causes me to wonder whose interests are being served by such glib judgment. Society? The person so judged? The putative victim of their slights? Or maybe the person rendering the judgment himself? I am skeptical of the ability of those rushing to judgment allowing them to buy their own righteousness too cheaply.
I think that, as Ethical Culturists, we need to strive for something more substantive and dignified. If ethical assessment there be, I think we need to take in the entire frame of a person’s life. Has the person striven to live out ethical values with integrity over the long haul? Has the individual lived a life with honesty, respect and support for others? Has that person’s deeds been consistent with his or her words and aspirations? In short, I make the argument that ethics in the most enduring sense is vested in what we call character, and will expand on that idea in our talk today.