Moral Obligation

June 22, 2017
By Caitlin Roberts BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
Caitlin Roberts BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Moral obligation is something that most people feel they have, but to whom they are obligated and when that obligation overrides their own self-interests, often differs.  Most people don’t feel they are being selfish when they choose themselves over others.  They feel they are doing what is right.  There has to be a point at which you put yourself first.  If you always value, the wellbeing of others over your own values, then there could be severe consequences for yourself.  How then, are people supposed to decipher whether their moral obligation or self-interest should triumph?  I personally feel that in each situation where you encounter this choice, you must evaluate how dire the need is of the person you feel obligated to, and how helping them would affect you.  After investigating both of these topics I think it would be easier to choose what course of action you should take.

Whom people feel they have a moral obligation to is often those they like or love, maybe friends or family.  When dealing with people you are fond of it is very important to evaluate how dire their need for help is.  There are times when they may be in great distress, but most often they need help with something trivial, and because you care about them you feel compelled to help.   When you care for someone you want them to be happy, but sometimes you must ignore the obligation you feel and make them do things for themselves.  There have been times before when my little sister is up past midnight doing homework and I, being older, felt that I should really be assisting her.  I had to stop and realize, though, that doing the homework for her wouldn’t benefit her in the future and that eventually she would get it done without my help.  Also, if I had also stayed up I could have ended up sick from lack of sleep.  I knew that my sister would probably be exhausted in the morning, but it was not a life or death situation so I felt that I could overlook the obligation I felt.  Other times it is perfectly fine to act on the obligation you feel.  If your family member is sick, your friend is stranded and in need of a ride, or any other situation where the need for help is serious, I think it is important to aid them.  As long as helping them does not have a great negative impact upon yourself, I think it is your duty to help in serious situations.

People also often feel a moral obligation to those who have less than them.  They have probably never met these people they feel obligated to, but because they are in great need of food, shelter, or other necessities, people feel they should do something to help.  I agree that they should be assisted, as long as you are able to help them.  If someone barely has enough food to put on their table and they’re struggling to pay the bills, I feel they should put their self-interest first.  It is important to help yourself before you help others, because if you’re always giving to those who have less, eventually you will have nothing and will become someone who needs help.

The idea of helping others sounds great, especially if you are in a position in life where it will not cause a great negative impact on yourself.  However, I can see how some people might feel that they have no moral obligation to others at all.   When you work hard for money or anything, it can become very important to you.  Sometimes, you may have had to go through trials and tribulations to gain whatever you have earned, and all the hard work it took has made you realize how special it is.  Why then, even if you have enough to share, should you be obligated to give away to others, what you have earned?  You may still have enough money and food but what you gave away could have brought you more happiness or comfort.  I personally feel that when you have enough you are obligated to share, but my opinion may be biased, based on the fact that knowing what I have earned can help others makes me happy.  For those people who do not gain the same satisfaction as I, by helping the less fortunate, should they still be obligated?  In the USA’s Declaration of Independence, it states that everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness.  If being obligated to help others gets in the way of someone’s happiness, then is it really right for others to fault them for their lack of charity?  I believe that it is, but I can see that those who disagree have a good argument.

 Others may not feel they have a moral obligation, not because they don’t want to share what they’ve earned, but because they are worried about the impact of helping.  In “When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism” the issue of immigrants is often brought up and I feel that this relates back to people’s fears about the impact of helping others.  Although some people fear that immigrants will steal their jobs, others fear that our culture will be lost or that these immigrants could threaten Americans’ safety.  Although this could be perceived as racist, some of their concerns are valid, given that they are based off facts.  Yes, every time a country gains more immigrants its culture changes, but to me this is not a bad thing.  American’s culture is already a melting pot from around the world, and adding more cultures will just enrich it even more.  There is also the fact that some immigrants have inflicted terrorist attacks, and this is a big concern for some people.  I personally think that we cannot turn a blind eye to all the pain and suffering in other parts of the world just because we fear one out of the thousands of people suffering may want to inflict damage on our country.  I do, however, understand that there could be consequences to allowing immigrants and that some people are not ready to accept them.  In their opinion, in these situations self-interest should override our moral obligations.

Though there are many reasons to act upon self-interest, people must realize that there are also consequences of ignoring your moral obligations.  People must be ready to deal with knowing that there are people out there suffering and that they are doing nothing to help.  This notion can place a heavy load on one’s heart and make them feel like they are a selfish or even apathetic person.  It could especially affect a person if other people they know are fulfilling their moral obligations, and yet they themselves are only acting in ways that benefit themselves.  The consequences may not seem as taxing as the consequences of moral obligation, but I feel that I would be constantly reminding myself of what I could have done to help.

 Everyone must decide for themselves when their self-interest overrides their moral obligations.  There is no fool proof formula to making the right decision though that would make the process easier.  Hopefully by weighing the consequences and benefits of each option, people will be able to decipher what the right choice for them is, and then hopefully they will make that choice.  I still believe that whenever you are able to help that you should, but I understand why some people would disagree with this based off of what it could cost them.  Everyone must make their own choice about how much they are willing to sacrifice to fulfill their moral obligations.

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