Do You Carry A Moral Compass?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

This day I breathèd first–time is come round,
And where I did begin, there shall I end.
My life is run his compass.

We all have a moral compass. A magnificent intangible tool to guide us through the journey of existence in this life. As a fan of self-inquiry, I came across a terrific website that contains a understandable description of moral compass.  The site is called

‘A useful way to think about your “moral compass” is to think of it like an ordinary compass with true North representing Integrity, South – Forgiveness, East -Compassion, and West – Responsibility. These four universal principles are honored in some form by people of all races and religions, regardless of gender.’

Pretty cool, huh?  Want to try something interesting? Fred Kiel, Ph. D. and Doug Lennick collaborated in creating an assessment that gives you an indication of what kind of of moral compass you currently possess. Click here to take the free assessment.

I am also a fan and subscriber of a website called Good Life Zen.  A site maintained and contributed to by Mary Jaksch.  An individual passionate about supporting people who want to lead a happier and more meaningful life.  Mary recently shared on her a site a wonderful article written by Leah McClellan.  An article congruent with the “Moral Compass” awareness. I share it forward with you below.

5 crucial reasons to carry a moral compass

This morning I took advantage of warmth and sunshine to do some early spring cleanup in my front lawn.A few dried-out clumps of tall ornamental grasses should have been cut back in the fall, and their long stalks have been blowing around the neighborhood all winter.It was time to take care of business.I raked and picked up in my neighbor’s yard first, all the while hoping they wouldn’t come home.

The relationship has been strained. I don’t know what’s going on, but their attitude toward me has gone into negative territory, and for my own peace of mind I’ve kept a polite distance.

I’ve felt a little hurt and annoyed, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK for my ornamental grasses to be scattered like hay all over their lawn.

A small part of me didn’t feel like doing them any favors. But that wasn’t a favor—it was a responsibility. The dried-out grass stalks were mine, and there’s no reason they should litter my neighbor’s lawn. Ergo, clean it up.

Very simple. Cut and dried.

I hope we’ll be friendly once again, but meanwhile I might as well keep things as peaceful as possible.

following my moral compass is a big help.

I often depend on it.

A few years ago, a different neighbor expressed surprise and gratitude that I didn’t respond angrily when he complained about my bamboo popping up in his yard.

Why should I be angry? I’d been meaning to install a barrier to keep the invasive roots of my little bamboo stand from spreading, but I was too late. It was my responsibility.

Again, cut and dried. I dug up the roots, smoothed out the soil, and replanted grass in the neighbor’s yard. I also installed the root barrier on my side. Easy-peasy.

i keep my compass close wherever i go, even while driving.

My compass says it’s not OK to yell at people or curse at them; instead, I want to be compassionate. This keeps me in line when someone lays on the horn and flips a finger at me for tardiness after the light turns green.

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel like giving someone an earful sometimes or that I haven’t ever. Far from it. But it’s not worth the aggravation.

knowing my ground rules keeps a lot of peace in my life even during stressful times.

I admit it’s hard to keep the compass pointing due north when a situation involves someone close to me, someone who can hurt me far deeper than any neighbor ever could.

But even though I don’t always follow it perfectly, my moral compass stops me from going down a path to nowhere—doing or saying something I’d truly regret.

And it also protects me from others who aren’t following the same kind of compass that I follow.

do you carry a moral compass?

I don’t mean a list of rules and regulations based on religion, traditional morality, or rules your parents instilled in you that you follow blindly, though many of those guidelines are great.

I mean a custom-designed, uniquely-your-own, tailored-to-fit moral compass that you lean on when the going gets tough.

some of the direction points on my compass look like this:

  • Respect others no matter who they are and expect the same
  • Be helpful to others and ask for help when I need it
  • Honor promises and obligations and apologize when I can’t
  • Stick with honesty and expect the same from others
  • Acknowledge, validate, or say thanks whether in person or online
  • Assume goodness in others and know they’re doing their best
  • Remove myself when someone’s best isn’t in my best interest

I have many more like that in different categories—public life, friends, close relationships—but you get the idea. I don’t always live up to them as well as I might, but if I’m lost, I know how to find my way again.

Here are five crucial reasons to keep a moral compass in your pocket at all times.

1. A moral compass provides guidelines in tricky situations.

Let’s say you’re on a second or third date with someone you hardly know. He’s pushy in a way that’s uncomfortable. Or she’s getting a little too physical way too soon for you. You want to slow things down tactfully, but how? Your moral compass gives you the confidence to say “I really want to know you better first” before things get out of hand.

2. A moral compass can make up for shortcomings.

Maybe you’re traveling and get lost in a small town where you don’t speak the language—and nobody speaks yours. What do you do? Rely on courtesy, humility, and respect to ask for help and get you back on a well-traveled road. Gestures and drawing pictures help, too, but more people want to help someone who’s pleasant than someone who isn’t.

3. A moral compass can keep love alive.

In any close relationship, conflicts happen. Lovers get hurt, partners get frustrated, children get angry. Deciding on “the right thing” to do, no matter how difficult, can mean the difference between a screaming, cursing, blaming session or weeks of silence and a conflict resolved in a way that works for everyone. Of course, what that “right thing” is might have to get figured out first.

4. A moral compass can protect you.

My moral compass says it’s not OK to be rude to me, lie to me, speak disrespectfully to me, or in any way treat me poorly, especially not as a pattern or without explanation and discussion. This is often called boundaries, and it gives me confidence to move forward in a situation or step back—or even out.

5. A moral compass can help your business flourish.

Morality in business? Sure. Whether it’s called business ethics or a moral compass, what company survives with unfriendly, unhelpful customer service? How long do employees last, assuming they have a choice, if management belittles them, treats them unfairly, or makes unethical decisions that affect everyone? I’ve heard Steve Jobs was near impossible to work with, but surely the rewards offset the difficulties.

Back to the neighbors and my errant grass stalks turning their lawn into a hayfield.

Maybe they didn’t notice. Or didn’t care. It doesn’t matter. I know I’m doing my small part in being a good neighbor.

doing “the right thing” never hurts, and it might help.

But if I didn’t keep my moral compass in my pocket, I might say “Oh, to heck with it. They’ve been rude to me, so why be nice to them?”

But why feed the flames?

I like my neighborhood, and though it’s not always Pleasantville, my moral compass keeps it from becoming Nastyville. At least on my side of the street.

Leah McClellan is a writer and copyeditor dedicated to peaceful living and helping other writers develop their craft. 

Self-Inquiry Homework:   What about you? Do you carry a moral compass? How does it help you? Write what you discover in a personal journal.  

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