On Moral Procrastination

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A NEW TERM FOR AN OLD SIN.

By REVELATION SOLATE

Many of our moral mistakes stem from overconfidence in ourselves. We weigh our present actions against our future actions, and have confidence that  if we are doing a wrong thing now, we at least have the ability to do the right thing later. It could be considered moral procrastination. For example: We tell ourselves:

"I can lie right now as long as I very well don't become a liar."

"I can watch porn at this moment; for I know, if I truly needed, if I truly wanted, I could restrain myself."

"I can be mean-spirited today and get it out of my system; for I can envision a future wherein I am generally kind all of the time."

"I can get drunk now because I have resolved to not do it so often, or let it consume my life."

Our "I'll do it later" mentality is similar to our approach on going to the gym, or running, or eating well. Our procrastination, even then, appears to be rooted in the belief that we can, in fact, someday do these things. We genuinely believe we could if we wanted to. We genuinely believe in ourselves.

"I can watch porn at this moment; for I know, if I truly needed, if I truly wanted, I could restrain myself."

And in a way, we are not wrong to assume that we are of strong will. You see evidence of your willpower everyday, when you avoid thinking about that particular ex, or when you do not buy any Starbucks even though you have a strong urge.

But perhaps we are overconfident in that will, envisioning a future self that has made it to the top of the mountain while our present self takes only a few small and painless steps to get there.

Many of our moral mistakes stem from overconfidence in ourselves.

The reality is that this hypothetical future self only reached the top by repeatedly going through great pains to get there. The formula is simple: If you make the steps now, you are one day, one week, one month closer to the top of the mountain than you were before. If you do not, you are one day, one week, one month behind. And remember: Your steps are limited.

After all, how often has procrastination worked in your favor in the physical realm? We have no reason to believe things are any different in the moral one.

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