The Three Stages of Right and Wrong

by | May 16, 2013 | Best Grandad Ever, Catholic Living, Things I Think | 5 comments

The Gosnell verdict + Abby Johnson’s post + unpleasant comments on Abby’s post + The Making Excuses Game + unpleasant comments on MY posts = my thoughts on the Three Stages of Right and Wrong.

As a teenager my moral sense was a product of high school culture, rather than the Catholic Church.  Which is to say, it was utterly relativistic.  I couldn’t possibly judge other people’s actions because what was wrong for one person might not be wrong for another, since everything depends on your perspective and no one can ever really know anything for sure.


photos are from a backyard battle
of knights/brothers wearing real armor
fashioned for them by their grandad,
just a usual Saturday night around here

But that’s a hard belief system to sustain if you’re paying attention and reading and having conversations, which, thankfully, I was.

Since my moral development was still progressing in an unguided fashion, next I found myself stalled out in the black-and-white stage.  The eye-for-an-eye stage.  The Dr. Laura stage.


After years of trying to convince myself that there was really no such thing as right and wrong, the black-and-white stage was, well, exhilarating and empowering.  Everything was so clear.  Not only was there a right and wrong, but *I* knew what they were.  I could pass judgment on the evil-doers that surrounded me.  For their own good, and mine, and SOCIETY’S.

I got to separate right from wrong, good from evil, sheep from goats.  For so long I had been missing that order in my life, but now it was there and in my control.  I could put the good stuff in this box and the bad stuff in that box, so everything made sense.


All I can say is thank the Good Lord this was before I knew about blogs because I could have been really, really unpleasant and there would be a record of it.

But by and by I went back to Mass, and I met my husband, and I went on retreats, and I entered spiritual direction, and I read the Catechism and lives of the saints.  And slowly, slowly I realized that MY black-and-white stage was nearly as untenable as my moral relativism had been.  And equally as unhelpful to my fellow man.


oh, and sometimes our knights
battles also have lightsabers

Because although I knew for sure that there was right and wrong, I was beginning to understand that while actions are easy to judge, people are nearly impossible.  And in all my reading, the saints never seemed to spend any of their precious time attempting it.  More importantly, they weren’t self-righteous and angry and name-calling in the face of sin and evil.  They were full of sorrow . . . and love.  They were much more concerned with how they might offer their own mortifications in reparation for sinners than they were in finger-pointing or leaving nasty comments anywhere.


At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love. –St. John of the Cross

I am completely convinced that being unpleasant to anyone, be they great sinners or fellow Catholics with whom I have a permissible difference of opinion, is never, never helpful.  It will never bring that sinner closer to God, or bring that other Catholic closer to my way of seeing, all it will do is bring me further away from God.



I absolutely can judge the wrong actions of others, and in certain circumstances, I can even judge that person.  But what then?  If I’m anything but kind and loving in my interactions with him I have failed him and myself and my faith.  So if you’ve ever noticed a less than charitable response from me to a less than charitable comment, know that I noticed it too (eventually).  And I’m trying to do better.



  1. Nanacamille

    Very insightful and very hard to do sometimes but worth the effort. Guess that's why the ones who did it are Saints.
    Wow there must be a lot of Grandmas getting eaten by boa constrictors because a guy going to save his Grandmother just swerved past me today almost running me into a bus to get to his.Bless him for his efforts.

  2. Kristen

    The "Dr. Laura stage" hahaha
    Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate the reminders.

  3. Erin Pascal

    Brilliant post! It was a pleasure reading it and it was a really good read. I learned a lot from this post and I am really thankful to you for sharing this. I hope to read more of your articles soon. May God bless you. 🙂

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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