I have already waxed poetic about Radiolab. Because they do not make enough new podcasts for all my commutin', I have been listening to oooold episodes. Today on my run (3 miles! woo!) I listened to this one about morality. One of the stories is about a woman who has been haunted by the way she behaved while playing a frontier simulation game back in 4th grade. She talks to various people and finds out that a lot of people have a memory like this. The first time you remember being really embarrassed by your behavior, a time when you did not do what was right that you can't forget and you keep coming back to it.
Some suggest that these times are so memorable, in that they help us remain moral being later on. Once you experience the terrible shame of knowing you did something wrong, you want to avoid that as much as possible. Sometimes these episodes might really impact who you are years later, as you swear to never repeat it.
Anyway, I was struck by this idea and could immediately think of two times when I was about 10 when I behaved in a way that, to this day, I am still really not proud of. Even though I know I was really young and I probably wouldn't blame an actual 10 year old for behaving this way, I am ashamed of what I did at the time.
1) When I was 10 my family moved across the country to a new state. I started a new school in 5th grade. A lot of the other kids had grown up together, and it was the first time I was the "new kid". I was really worried about fitting in. One girl was really nice and welcoming to me so I sat with her at lunch for a couple of days. Until somehow I got in with the more "popular" girls, and they told me if I ever wanted any friends not to hang out with this girl any more. So I didn't. I totally stopped and even joined in when others make fun of her. Today, that seems so unlike me that I am mortified that I ever did it. But maybe doing it, and feeling bad about it, is part of what makes that something I would not do today.
2) This one is not about interpersonal relationships, but about beliefs. It also happened around the same age. When we moved, I also moved from public school to Catholic school. I have mostly good things to say about Catholic education, and attribute a lot of my academic success to my time in Catholic school, but this was not one of its shining moments. I was in religion class and we were reading in the New Testament where Jesus is sending his disciples out into the world he tells them that they, the disciples, are worth more to him than sparrows (Matthew 10:31, if you are interested. I had to use a concordance to look this up. Lucky I have a husband who studies religion!). Anyway, somehow the class got into a discussion of how this meant God loved humans more than animals, and that lead to the fact that animals didn't have souls and would therefore just be dead when they were dead. I have always really loved animals, and at this time had both a dog and especially a cat (Tiger, may he rest in peace) that I totally loved so I just could not deal. Also, it seemed really mean of God to not make an animal heaven. I have never been shy about speaking in class so I asked something about this, or expressed my doubt that animals lacked souls, and the teacher was really not happy. Eventually, she made me stand up and repeat after her that "animals do not have souls." It was terrible and I was embarrassed I ended up giving in and saying something I really vehemently did not believe to avoid getting into trouble.
So those are my stories -- two instances when I was just figuring out how to behave, that have really stuck with me and taught me what it feels like to really know something is wrong and do it anyway. Do you have stories like this?