We often think of morality as synonymous with being a good person.
It’s the code of conduct that we all live by.
Without this set of unspoken rules, it would be pretty impossible to get along with others.
In fact, civilized society wouldn’t exist without strong moral values.
How do you determine moral values?
In a nutshell, our morals are our standards of behavior.
They are the frame in which we see the world and label things as right from wrong.
So far so good.
But whilst we all appreciate morals, we won’t necessarily have the same ones.
The truth is that we’re bound to value different things in life. And that’s going to impact your morals.
As highlighted in USA Today:
“The reason we ultimately diverge on so many moral issues, experts say, is because we rank our values differently. Cultural psychologists have found political variations, for example: conservatives place importance on values such as loyalty and authority, while liberals prioritize care and fairness.”
The reality is that what you see as right or wrong is shaped by a host of things — like the culture in which you are born, who raises you, and your life experiences.
Whilst some morals are more universal, others are less straightforward.
Nevertheless, generally speaking, we often value the same moral characteristics in someone.
Things like being kind, just, and fair. And these (amongst other things) are what can help us instantly identify a strong moral character.
7 ways to tell if someone has strong moral values
1) They’re respectful to everyone, no matter what their status
You can tell an awful lot about someone by how they treat the so-called “little people in life”.
So pay close attention to how someone behaves towards others, especially those in the service industry.
If you’re out to dinner with someone, something as small as how they talk to the waitstaff will give a lot way.
Someone most likely has strong moral values if they’re kind, courteous, and respectful to everyone they meet — regardless of who it is.
Are they nice to those who they are currying favor with, but treat others poorly when it suits them?
If they’re grumpy, snappy, and pretty rude to people they see as beneath them, then it’s a big red flag.
Executive director of the nonprofit T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, says equality is a fundamental of morality.
“All morality must be grounded in a belief that every single human being is created equal, and is equally deserving of dignity and of just and fair treatment”.
2) They don’t have a big ego
I think it’s safe to say that most of us are capable of having a bit of an ego from time to time.
Or at least, I know I certainly am. It often rears its head when we go into defensive mode.
But a lot of the time, when someone has a really big ego, it’s fairly obvious from the start.
We’re talking about things like excessive bragging, a desperate need to be right, and always needing the limelight.
Rather than being about confidence, the opposite is actually true — strong egos are usually the most insecure. They quickly feel threatened.
But what has this got to do with morals?
The problem is that ego is by nature self-centered and that’s not compatible with morality.
Moral people think about others. They’re not only concerned with what they have to gain in any given situation.
They have the strength of character and inner strength to look outside of themselves.
That’s why when someone appears to be a team player, it’s a good sign of their morals.
They are genuinely interested in and concerned by others’ needs and wants.
The most moral people weigh up the well-being of others in their decision-making.
Those with the strongest morals value other people as much as they value themselves. So you’re unlikely to see diva behavior, tantrums, or outbursts.
They can control their ego and keep themselves in check.
3) They are introspective
In general, thoughtful people in every sense of the word tend to have stronger morals.
Thoughtful in their approach to other people, but also thoughtful when it comes to being self-reflective.
In order to hold ourselves—and our moral code—to account we need to be able to look at it honestly.
After all, if we cannot reflect on our opinions and beliefs critically, how can we contemplate bigger moral questions?
Whilst we might think of morality as something intuitive, the truth is that it’s not always that simple.
In fact, our next point on the list will highlight this.
But the reality is that morality evolves. It also takes quite a bit of consideration sometimes to decipher what is right or wrong.
Neither of these things is possible without being able to do some soul-searching.
People who are prepared to call themselves out, admit when they’ve got it wrong, and make amends show themselves capable of introspection and change.
4) They show flexibly
And I don’t mean that they can easily touch their toes. No, I’m talking about their attitude and approach.
They aren’t rigid or stuck in their ways.
They seem open and willing to hear people out, explore new perspectives and see things from another point of view.
Why is this such a big deal?
Because of the fact that morality is so complicated.
Even though we might expect the most moral people in life to be strict in their moral views, that’s not actually the case.
In fact, we often want and expect the people closest to us to be morally flexible at times.
Think about it this way:
You firmly believe stealing is wrong, so you want the people you surround yourself with to feel the same, right?
But what happens when Amazon accidentally posts two of something you ordered?
Do you send it back? Or do you keep the spare?
Is that stealing if you do?
Similarly, maybe you share your Netflix password with a loved one. Something up to a quarter of us apparently do according to stats.
Technically it’s illegal to do so. So does that make you a criminal if you do?
Hopefully, by now you’re catching my drift.
Often the situation dictates our morals, and it’s not always so clear cut.
This is why an ability to approach morals with flexibility is a strength.
Because the rules of morality can’t always be applied successfully when they’re done so rigidly.
5) They stay true to themselves
Ok, so we’ve just said that flexibility can be a good thing when it comes to morals. But within reason.
Because the other side of the coin to strong moral values is also being unwavering when sticking to your biggest values.
Rather than being easily swayed by others, those with strong moral values are prepared to go against the grain when they feel it’s right.
They are prepared to risk ridicule or lose popularity if it means they stay true to themselves and do the right thing.
They’ll stick their neck out to stick up for others. They’ll risk getting into a personal bind.
You can see this quality fairly quickly in others.
Does someone change their opinion or view on things just to be agreeable?
Or are they willing to stick up for the people, causes and beliefs they hold dear?
6) They strive to be reasonable and approach things with fairness
At its heart, morality pivots on fairness and justice.
And this yet again requires that unique quality of selflessness.
In order to be fair, we have to take ourselves out of the equation and consider the bigger picture.
But striving for fairness is, of course, harder said than done.
Remaining reasonable, especially when we experience strong emotions can be a real stretch.
Whatsmore, just like morality itself, our interpretations of what is fair are bound to differ.
But if someone clearly approaches a difficult situation with fairness, it’s a sign of their strong morals.
They don’t want to leave someone else feeling short-changed or hard done by.
You can spot fair-minded people as they tend to be objective, even-handed, and display good judgment.
If someone is fair, then that means it’s one rule for everyone — they don’t give anyone special treatment.
7) They’re not just all talk, they put their morals into action
Morality is not hypothetical, it’s practical.
That means the people with the strongest moral values don’t just talk a good talk, they walk the walk too.
They put their morality into practice.
Simple and practical ways of showing morality can include:
- Being honest and speaking the truth
- Being mindful of what you say and its potential impact on others
- Treating people like you would wish to be treated
- Keeping your promises and being trustworthy
But it also requires you to roll up your sleeves and take a stand for what you believe is right.
That might mean campaigning for a cause you feel strongly about, signing a petition, joining a protest, or supporting a good cause.
The point is that morality isn’t just something you believe in, it’s something you do.
As they say, actions speak louder than words.
So you can only really tell a person’s moral fibre from watching their behavior, and not just listening to their words.