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I always find it interesting that we have jails and courts. Our laws reflect the bare minimum of what is expected of people in society. How is it that people can’t meet that bare minimum? If you get sent to jail because you can’t meet that lowest of low standard, as they say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Beyond the laws, we have what I refer to as “moral obligations.” These aren’t codified obligations. If you don’t meet them, no one can take you to court. But these are the things you should do if you want to qualify as a Decent Human Being.

For instance, many parents don’t financially support their children. The courts require a bare minimum amount that parents have to pay in order to support their children. But this amount is paltry compared to the actual costs of raising a child through their teenage years and into college. Unfortunately, many parents decide that they just don’t feel like supporting their children to the full extent required.

Now, there is no law stating that you have to support your children beyond the legal minimum dollar amount. But you do have a moral obligation. If you want to meet the Decent Human Being standard, you need to help launch your children into adulthood. That means ensuring that they have the resources and education to get a job and be successful on their own.

The same holds true with respect to our parents. We have an obligation to help them when they become older. Obviously, there is no law requiring you to help your elderly parents. But there is a moral obligation.

I recently saw a video with the evangelist, Joyce Meyer. Her father horribly abused her as a young person, and her mother knew of the abuse, but did nothing to protect her. Nevertheless, when her parents became elderly, she took care of them. I truly admire that. She believed that she had a moral obligation to care for her parents, regardless of their treatment of her. No one reasonably would have expected her to care for them. However, her moral and religious convictions guide her life.

In our everyday lives, we also make choices to be either “moral” individuals or “bare minimum” individuals. For instance, if you are a smoker, you have a choice. You can choose to smoke around children and people with lung issues. There is no law against it. Or you can choose to smoke outside, away from people, and thereby not physically harm others by your behavior. The choice is yours.

If you share a home with other people, you can choose to clean your home and make your bed every day. In that way, you ensure that your household is nice and pleasant for everyone. Or you can be selfish and not make your bed and fail to pick up after yourself. Quite honestly, there is no law against being a slob. The question is whether you want to hold yourself to a higher standard of behavior or not.

And that is the crux of the matter. You may not be legally obliged to do certain things in life. But you are morally obliged. And the question is this: What drives your life? Are your moral and religious convictions in the driver’s seat? Or do you do what you can get away with? Do you only meet the legal bare minimum standard of behavior? Or do you hold yourself to a higher standard?

There is nothing wrong with doing the bare minimum in life. You won’t go to jail. You’ll probably keep your job, and you may even find someone to marry you. But the issue with everyone doing the bare minimum is that it creates a world in which no one wants to live.

The reason why society works is that most of us go beyond the bare minimum. Most of us will do anything for our children to help them. Most of us will care for our parents when they are older and need us. Most of us will help out a co-worker who is struggling, and most will donate what they can to feed the poor.

And that is why our society is as good as it is. Most people don’t do whatever we can get away with. Most folks try to put the needs of others before their own, whenever possible. Most of us are trying to do the right thing. We may not always do it perfectly, but we are trying.

When other people simply do the bare minimum, that is when we see society fail. Kids need more than bare minimum parenting to become exceptional adults. Companies need more than bare minimum employees to be competitive in a global economy.

This week consider what standard you are holding yourself to. Are you a bare minimum type of person? Do you do whatever you can get away with? Or do you hold yourself to the highest standard possible? Ultimately, being a person of moral excellence is a choice. Choose wisely.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

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