From Biblical writers to Aristotle, moral development, or the acquisition of virtues, has been a topic of importance in character formation throughout antiquity. Psychologists, philosophers, theologians, and mankind once banked on virtue as a primary stabilizing element within society. The list of virtues is long and some of the most essential include compassion, temperance, integrity, diligence, perseverance, and forgiveness.

Development and adherence to societal ethics strengthens individuals, families, and communities. They serve as guiding principles governing personal conduct and human interaction from the schoolhouse to the highway. Historically, schools, churches, and homes assumed responsibility for transmitting moral education to the young. As once lifelong communities of heterogenous groups became mobile and scattered, necessitating a measure of open mindedness to plurality, much of the focus on traditional virtues were abandoned to focus on diversity tolerance.

Living in harmony in a heterogenous culture is a virtue worth cultivating, however not at the expense of the tried and true which have governed the inner workings of society with measured success. As a lifelong learner with an academic bend, I acknowledge our scholarly inclination to query, “successful for whom?” It is an important inquiry and as we broaden thinking on one hand to improve conditions for minority groups, it remains critical to maintain integrity of the entire unit through ethical development.

Most are quick to advocate for compassion as it supports a narrative of tolerance, albeit empathy in itself does not negate expectations for order or confer advocacy for deleterious behaviors. A common thinking error permits excess liberality through excuse making – rather than focusing on remedial corrective measures, socially detrimental behaviors are often dismissed citing causative factors. No matter what the origin of harmful effects, poor behavior still must be punished as a deterrent and reparation.

Temperance is the old-fashioned idea that individuals should exercise self-restraint and moderation. Archaic meanings focus on the misuse of alcohol, yet lack of self-restraint is globally evident through unmonitored, boorish free speech, inciting a culture of intensifying argument and violence between individuals of all ages, exploding into the public square. Civic shootings are off the rails, raucous and unlawful demonstrations litter communities, and internet traffic regularly reflects hate speech in many sectors. Temperance and self-restraint appear to be relegated to the halls of history.

Expected human qualities of integrity and due diligence, once customary in our nation’s governance, has been equally excused away on the heels of convenience. The same qualities once expected of our pastors, teachers, and leaders have been squandered and tossed. The end justifies any means. No wonder trust in leadership is at an all-time low. Because of expedience, we have abrogated responsibility to hold those in positions of authority accountable, as we as a society have become unaccountable.

Although it might not be able to be offered on a corporate level, we might find forgiveness individually and within smaller groups, should we require and maintain adherence to ethical principles in our relationships and institutions, and be less quick to excuse poor behavior. This goes doubly for those who consider themselves most moral; your reputation is at stake and currently has a “D” on the social report card. The ends do not justify the means; the means are destroying everything we hold most dear. The solution requires strong effort from all who are capable of understanding the consequences of the unraveling of social restraints.