Answer by Will Wister:
How do I become a person of great moral character?
If you are moral, but unhappy, I’m not really convinced you’ve succeeded at life. I want to attack this question from the angle of how happiness and morality are interrelated.
On the simplistic level, you could become more moral by thinking about yourself in a certain way. If you simply self-identify as someone who always tells the truth, always does good things etc., this brings you towards that goal. If others ask what you like best about yourself, you say that you like that you’re a good person or you like that you always try to do the right thing.
On a deeper level, you have to get to a place where doing good things actually makes you happy. Otherwise you really won’t have succeeded at life.
Think about all the times you were happy in life. Some of those might have sprung from achievements of various sorts, and I actually think achievements can be a form of good in their own way. Some may have come from spending time with people who you felt were particularly great for whatever reason, and I view it as good to sort of be the best you can be, so that’s a worthwhile effort.
People get to be happy on a deeper level and content with themselves, largely because others have been good to them and treated them well, so it’s arguable they have some obligation to pay that back to the world by being good to others.
Some people like to think it’s the little things in life that create a good person, the little courtesies extended towards others, good manners etc. I actually think it’s more important to give off the type of vibe that makes other people happy with who they are, and secondly is the type of person that you like to be and that you’d like to spend time with. Knowing that you’re doing both of those things will make you happy.
If you think about being able to like the person you are, morality usually comes into play there. In other words, in order to like yourself and be happy with yourself, you probably need to be a moral person. Thus you can think that in order to be happy you probably need to be moral and vice versa.
It’s pretty hard to like someone else and invest in a meaningful relationship that was as emotionally healthy as possible if that person isn’t moral. So that’s a key reason why in order to like yourself, it’s highly beneficail have to be moral.
It’s pretty hard to achieve happiness on a deeper level without morality. Yes, you might be able to achieve temporary, superficial happiness without morality, but for the deeper, more concrete happiness, morality is a key building block.
So, think about morality in terms of what it can do for your own happiness, and how it can make you happier with yourself and with life in general. I think that’s really a key motivator. I believe that happiness is the fundamental currency in life, and that people strive towards happiness, and make tradeoffs in life in pursuit of that goal.
I think that if people have the right motivation, they can really put any potential tradeoffs into perspective and do what it takes to achieve their goals.
So, think about the fact that morality is key for your happiness, and it will be a key motivating factor that will help you achieve your goals. It will help you be the person you want to be. it will help you describe yourself as a person who tries to do the right thing, as you recognize that this action is necessary for your long term happiness.