Moral Compass

by Mariann E. Danko

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Don’t you wish all of humanity lived by this Golden Rule? I know I do. It would certainly help when raising children. No matter how much you drum this into your child’s head and work hard at setting an example of Imageliving by this rule, as our children age, they begin to see for themselves how much of humanity does not abide by the Golden Rule.

First, they may experience the bully on the playground, bus or cafeteria. I know my son has endured some not-so-nice schoolmates (this is being polite) over the years and has even encountered, at a very young age, some adults in the school system who were not appreciative of his unique personality and speedy mental processing center. I’m convinced that this was what triggered the beginning of his self-esteem troubles. No matter how much encouragement I gave him, some of the adults at the school tore it down. Thankfully, we left that school and moved into a district that has a genuine compassion for and real understanding of the gifted mind. Not that there haven’t been struggles, each year has brought a new level of challenges, (I can hardly wait to see what high school brings.) but my son now knows his teachers support and believe in him, they aren’t picking on him, they’re encouraging him. (Although sometimes he feels like they are picking when they push him to perform on the level they know he’s capable of. I’m grateful for this because he’s tired of hearing it from me. I’m just a nag. Sorry, meandering again.)

Back to the Golden Rule dilemma. On a worldly level, all our children have to do is see one news report to see the moral compass of society crumbling. I tried hard to shelter my son from seeing the news when he was young, but by the end of his elementary school years, discussing current events was part of the school day. At this point, the sheltering turned into discussions about the evils of this world. Let’s face it, the world a lot of us lived in as children is long gone. Not that I’m an antique, but things like school shootings and terrorist attacks were atrocities we never would have thought possible. Our children are living in a very different world and as parents we have to be attentive to the anxieties this world may impose on our children. We have to be active participants in guiding their moral compass, if not, their compass may go off course and they could become one of the evil people we see on the news. I realize this is an extreme, but think of the child who is bullied and ends becoming the shooter.

Hershel, the moral compass, during a quiet, meditative moment

Hershel, the moral compass, during a quiet, meditative moment

I know this is a heavy subject, but since watching the season finale of “The Walking Dead” I couldn’t help but meditate on the role of a parent as a child’s moral compass guide. In a zombie apocalypse world, attempting to keep a moral compass is as much a challenge as survival. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has tried very hard to hang onto some sense of morality, particularly because of his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), but with time, he too found himself stepping over the line in the name of saving his family and group. In this horrific apocalyptic world, his behavior was considered excusable because of the circumstances. As the shows tagline states “Fight the dead. Fear the Living.” It’s basically come down to every man for himself, so, if you’re fortunate to find a group of the living willing to band together against the evils of this apocalyptic world, you go for it. The back half of Season Four saw the group that Rick and Carl were part of separated and scattered after the unexpected attack of the psycho Governor (David Morrissey) and subsequent brutal killing of Hershel (Scott Wilson), the groups moral compass. With the group running for their lives and their guiding compass gone, each character found themselves struggling to keep some sort of moral code, and still stay alive.

During the finale though, Rick is faced with doing the most unthinkable things in order to save his son and their companion Michonne (Danai Gurira). Seeing his son Carl’s response to his actions was even harder than the actions themselves. The thing that Rick doesn’t realize is that Carl’s reaction was not one of disrespect or disgust, but of fear for himself. He realizes that he too has the same monster in him that his father just unleashed. We know this because he confesses to Michonne who consoles him by telling him it is the times they live in, everyone has a little monster inside of them. If they don’t, they won’t survive. The trick is learning how to keep it at bay and only unleash it when all other efforts are exhausted. A tall order when the world has gone mad.

When you think about it, the world we live in now may not have zombies running amuck, but we certainly deal with a lot of madness. Maybe that’s why so many are drawn to shows like “The Walking Dead.” It’s an escape from the daily madness we endure, and it makes us feel safe because we are not living in apocalyptic times. It lulls us into a falls sense of security. As a parent, I see it as a means to further stress the importance of the Golden Rule. And to encourage our children to stay in touch with their emotions. When they are angry or afraid or hurt, they need to understand why and learn how to keep that monster under control. Otherwise it may take over and once that happens the Golden Rule is lost.

With that considered, we all know actions speak louder than words and children learn by example, but at any given time when the stresses of the day have gotten to us, we might find ourselves not abiding by the rule, thus sending mixed signals. Lord knows I have had more of these days than I care to admit. At these times,  I’ll try to remember to take a deep breath and remind myself to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Just as the quote by Andrew Combe states “What we desire our children to become, we must endeavor to be before them.” Certainly makes you think.


© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2014. All rights reserved.


Image credit: <a href=’’>paulfleet / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

TWD photo courtesy of AMC