The Horrid Sin of Moralism

There is great distinction to be made between being highly moral and being moralistic. The former does not necessarily entail the latter. Nor, ironically enough, does the latter entail the former. It is quite the marvel how often one finds that those most moralistic are obtuse to their own ethical failings. They denounce sexual vice, while lasciviously engaging in mendacity or cruelty. Within the hour that they apply a moral principle in one set of circumstances, they violate that same principle in regard to another. And when reproached for inconsistency, they wave it off as being different without being able to substantiate the distinction.

Moralism cuts short the ability to deeply understanding the dynamics of the human heart and society. It labels without giving assistance. It stops from further investigation and thereby prevents the ability to counsel and encourage a person from their vice towards a better way.

I snapped into exasperated anger at an interlocutor after watching the movie “Unfaithful”. While I waxed about the civilization-level difference between the ideological, ethical and cultural mores between America and continental Europe; or the relationship between underlying ideology and cosmological perspective and ethics; my obtuse interlocutor (again) reduced a movie to the simplism of a morality play and felt it incumbent to emphasize that point.

It is probably pretty safe to say that historically, moralism afflicts the female species more so than the male. And moralism is not the monopoly of the religious only. Any standard, secular or sacred, upon which one castigates another ad nauseum, constitutes moralism. The Cult of Tolerance presently constitutes the worst moralists.

Regardless, moralism is the great Shiva of marital relationships. For, in the vulnerable, intimate confidentiality of the conjugal bed, where we are advised to confess faults and failures to each other (James 5:16), let alone fears, anxieties, fantasies and dreams; the porcupine quills of judgmentalism are certain to naturally send the turtle to withdraw into its shell.

It is perverse folly to expect otherwise. What person does not seek to hide their physical blemishes and deformities if oft remarked about? What person, who delights not in sadomasochism, subjects their privates to being kicked at will? Yet the obtuse self-righteousness of moralism blinds itself to this self-evident truism; expecting their spouse or any interlocutor to suffer their righteous slings from this self-anointed guardian of virtue.

In an outside world, where we dwell in a goldfish bowl, where all failures are potential means by which our competitors and enemies exploit to their advantage; the conjugal bed is supposed to be the one locale where one can be at ease; “a haven in a heartless world”.  However, there exists many a person who works long hours; not because of ambition, but because of avoidance.

If a person fails to acknowledge their failings, there is place for reproach. However, if that person acknowledges their shortcomings, continued moral fulminations are akin to stabbing a corpse. It alienates. The recipient of such outrage reconstructs the very fortifications that marital intimacy was supposed to level. It is a gateway to divorce or to a cold toleration of each other in the autumn and winter of the marital relationship.

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