We don’t have to reject our humanity to make progress these days. Yes, our caveman tendencies are causing us problems. However, we can retune them to work for us, rather than against us. One way in particular is to adopt a set of fixed ethics as the core of our value system.
Our comparative analysis tendencies are genetic so we’re hard pressed to do away with them. But we can teach ourselves to compare ourselves to what we can think of as an ideal person. For example, we may decide that an ideal person is one who is kind and honest, one who is fair and open-minded, and one who is respectful of all people. When we do, we have adopted those characteristics as our ethics. Then, we simply compare ourselves to those on a day-to-day basis. It’s amazing how powerful this concept is.
Right away, we are free from the desire for social acceptability. It is a fact that being popular does not in any way indicate being ethical. We all know of despicable people who are embraced by society. When we strive to live according to our ethics, we end up internalizing very little in life. The reality of our world is that the opinions of most people don’t matter at all. They are their issue, not ours. When we rationally determine what it means to be a good person, we can hold our heads high as walk through life trying to live up to our ideals. If our contemporaries don’t share our values, so be it. Who cares?
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