Courteous Morality

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
November 14, 2017

We have recently had a distressing number of revelations about powerful men taking advantage of younger more vulnerable women and men. It is both ugly and frightening that people use their positions of authority and prestige to pressure people into doing things that they do not want. The #MeToo campaign on social media has led to many women (and some men) saying that they have also been victims of sexual assault and harassment.
This is not what the Lord wants for us! He does not want children to be exposed to sexual material or advances too early; He does not want women to be harassed or harmed, or to be constantly watchful for the next threat. Yet that has become common. And unfortunately it is not something we can say happens “out there.” This harm also happens in our church community.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on a teaching about young men treating the opposite sex with “courteous morality.” (ML 98:2) That’s a lovely phrase, and one we could all stand to ponder as we reflect on our behavior.
Treating people with morality means treating them according to spiritual principles, and it means treating them so that they feel safe. I yearn for a world in which my wife could go for a walk in the dark without thinking about what might happen, or when my daughters could assume that they would be regarded primarily for their charm and personality, and beauty too, but without ugly thoughts and actions intruding.
How can we as a community support morality in general? At root, our morality is about our self-control. Are we willing and able to restrain our native impulses of all sorts? We all have weaknesses we could actively work on. When we discipline ourselves to act morally we create safety. That safety spreads. Morality breeds morality.
And we can, of course, stand more clearly for morality in the way we treat the opposite sex: what we laugh at, what we do or don’t countenance, what we are willing to stand up against.
At a lower level we could consider how courteous we are. Courtesy involves showing respect for others, and often also involves self-control. When we make consideration for others a priority, we not only make them feel better; we make them feel safe.
Probably all of us could reflect on our lives and find an area where we could focus on acting with deeper courteous morality. We can’t control what others do, but we can each work to make the world a bit safer.

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