Reconciling Apples and Oranges

While studying some law case and writing certain articles, I came to some conclusions that I strongly agree with; however, some of my beliefs, in general, are different.

Is it just like with politics? Personal morality vs doing what is the best for your country/national interest?

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, Secular Humanist: studied theology, social work, some philosophy, anthropology

I appreciate your honesty in confronting this important question and will be equally honest with you. I have never studied law and do not feel qualified to answer your question specifically but perhaps I can address it generally. I was raised in a strict conservative Christian community where the teaching was to rather forfeit freedom, and even life if necessary, than to disobey God’s will. Given this background, I have often wondered how people in your situation, such as lawyers, judges, and politicians who are conservative Christians can rule in favour of national law like gay marriage and abortion. Just to clarify: I don’t know where you live; I live in Ontario, Canada where the law may differ somewhat from your jurisdiction.

The last part of your question, i.e. “Is it just like with politics? Personal morality vs doing what is the best for your country/national interest?” helps me understand how our lawmakers compartmentalize in order to keep society running as smoothly as possible. It also leads to values you and I hold in common. As a Secular Humanist today, I believe that we should do what we can to alleviate human suffering in this life, to achieve fairness and justice, i.e. what is best for one’s country and national interest on a secular level in this present life. Like they taught in social work, I believe it is okay to do whatever you want so long as you don’t hurt yourself or others. I also believe that “My rights end where yours begin.” Above all, I want everyone to be happy, with no one suffering or being taken advantage of for the benefit of others. That is basically the foundation of my moral beliefs today, and I would argue that most religions build on similar foundations except religion includes belief in the supernatural.

Now let’s look at your main question: How to deal with contradictions that appear in your field of work and your beliefs. The best answer I know to give is: Dig deep to find a common ground between the two contradictions, then work from that platform of commonality. For example, in our everyday speech we often say two opposing items are like “apples and oranges.” Let me tell a little “apples and oranges” story; it may help clarify.

I was not born into mainstream Western culture. In middle age, I first encountered the “apples and oranges” expression. Immediately I thought of healthy vitamin-laden fruits, of which health rules in school said to eat one of each day. Apples grew in the orchard behind the farmhouse I grew up in and there was always a bowl of fresh apples on the cupboard. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” my mother used to say. Oranges were a luxury food my parents could seldom afford to buy but my teachers said they were full of Vitamin C, and Vitamin C was supposed to keep away the flu and cold. Understandably, I had a hard time learning why people in mainstream society insert the expression “That’s like apples and oranges” into a conversation where they really mean, “You can’t reconcile those opposites!”

In my mind apples and oranges had always been reconciled.

Thus, if you dig deep into the situation of your beliefs, morals and ethics, the case you are working on and everything concerning it and look at it from a so-called alien perspective like I looked at the “apples and oranges” expression, can you find common ground from which to work?

I believe that only if we work from a standpoint of personal integrity can we keep from breaking under the assaults of life’s attacks on the psyche. I believe this is especially true of individuals working on the front lines of the battle between good and evil such as personnel in the justice system. Without finding that common ground between the contradictions, I am not sure how to do your job without compartmentalizing and we all know that a structure of compartments is not as strong as one built in a single unit. In my opinion, for the psyche the single-unit principle translates into personal integrity.

Please note that this answer is built mostly on my personal life experience and observation. I cannot point to scientific or psychological research to support it. I hope you find a method of reconciliation you can honestly live with.

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