Moral standards

Moral norms are guidelines created by society to define modes of behavior that help preserve coexistence between people. They come from customs and traditions, therefore, they can change and evolve as the society in which they were conceived does.

There are general codes of conduct that we can see and apply in our daily lives. Its objective is to delineate what is considered correct from what is incorrect, aiming at the well-being of the collective.

Examples of moral norms are :

  1. Always tell the truth.
  2. Take responsibility for your own actions.
  3. Keep your word.
  4. Do not steal.
  5. Be neat.
  6. Honor the debts or commitments acquired.
  7. Do not mistreat other living beings.
  8. Be faithful.
  9. Show respect for one’s own national and religious symbols and those of other cultures
  10. Doing the right thing in public and in private and expecting nothing in return.
  11. Help someone who is in a disadvantaged position.
  12. Be compassionate.
  13. Respect the investiture of authority and the elderly.
  14. Promote dialogue over violence.
  15. Avoid conflicts of interest (situations in which you can take advantage to the detriment of others).
  16. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other, that is, trying to be empathetic with others.
  17. Dispose of the waste in the appropriate place.
  18. Take care of public spaces.
  19. Give the seat to pregnant women, children, the elderly or disabled.
  20. Practice the rules of courtesy (say good morning, say goodbye, say thank you).
  21. Ask permission before borrowing something.
  22. Avoid physical contact with others without their consent.
  23. Avoid obscene vocabulary.
  24. Do not speak behind people’s backs.
  25. Respect all people, without distinction.

Characteristics of moral norms

Although moral norms originate from different universal values, they have a number of common characteristics, such as:

  1. They are autonomous : they are created by society, but their fulfillment depends on each person, they cannot be imposed. Adherence to the rules is determined by the values ​​of each person. Each individual chooses if they want to be respectful, kind, behave honestly, etc.
  2. They are unilateral : each person is responsible for the consequences generated by their actions or decisions. For example, if a person decides to violate the rights of another and this merits a legal sanction, then they must assume the corresponding punishment.
  3. They cannot be sanctioned : when a moral norm is breached, there is no punishment, unless it coincides with a legal norm. For example, not being nice to an older person does not have a legal penalty (such as a fine). But stealing is not only a moral fault, it also has a penalty.
  4. They are not subject to competition : they are not the competence of the State or of any governmental or legal institution. They can only arise as a result of social dynamics and cannot be imposed. In other words, no legal framework can dictate what the moral standards are or how they should be met.
  5. They are variable : they can change, modify and even disappear according to the changes that society experiences. For example, it used to be considered a violation of the moral standard for women to wear pants. Today that standard is obsolete in much of the world.

You may be interested in knowing some examples of moral values .

Moral norms and legal norms: how are they different?

Moral norms are codes of conduct that establish the correct way to behave and are transmitted through customs and traditions. Although the ideal is that all the people abide by these norms, those who do not are not necessarily punished by justice, hardly disapproved by society.

The legal norms are established by the organisms in charge of creating the laws. They establish the duties and rights of all citizens and are transmitted through legal instruments, such as civil codes or regulations.

Failure to comply with the legal norms generates sanctions that will vary according to the offense committed. For example, a violent act can carry from months to years in jail, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

In many cases, legal norms coincide with moral norms. The dishonesty expressed in the crime of theft has moral and legal sanctions. Both types of norms regulate social behavior, but in moral norms free will is imposed, while in legal norms what is dictated by the corresponding code (traffic law, civil code, constitution, etc.) is imposed.

Moral standardsLegal norms
DefinitionGuidelines that establish correct behaviors for an individual or group.Guidelines that establish duties and rights for an individual or group.
Who creates themSociety, religion, culture.The bodies in charge of making laws, such as the Supreme Court, the courts, or the Congress or Senate of a country.
How they are transmittedThrough customs and traditions.Through legal instruments such as civil codes, regulations, constitution, ordinances, etc.
Type of sanctionsThere are no penalties.
  • Fines
  • Jail.
  • Community work.
  • Other sanctions defined by the competent authorities.
  • Not lie.
  • Be respectful of older people.
  • Do no harm to others.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not accept bribes.
  • Do not generate vandalism.

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