shades of gray1

No, this isn’t a post about letting a few extra weeks slip by without a visit to my colorist, or a discussion about the latest actor tapped to play Christian in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie. It’s not about paint colors or the latest fashion trend. It’s about those grey areas in life and the choices that you make when you’re in one of those hazy situations.

Last weekend we attended a local sporting event where a coach made one of those questionable choices – he instructed his player to do something that, while not against the rules, fell into an ethically questionable area. He knew it and the spectators knew it. But, as a result of his decision, the coach and his team did win the game – and getting that end result was what mattered to him. Fair and square? Technically, yes. But even a 10-year-old could sense that an ambiguous fine line had been crossed.

The next day, my son and I were discussing the game and the coach’s move that, although in that grey area, resulted in his team winning the championship. Is all really fair in love and war…and sports? And what does a move like that teach kids about sportsmanship and the importance of winning. More importantly, what are the ripple effects of that decision? Are those players learning that it’s ok to take advantage of a situation because it’s technically not against the rules, but ethically questionable?

So we posed the question to our 10-year-old, “What would you do when you’re in a situation that could potentially benefit you at someone else’s expense?” I gave him a few situational questions and let his moral compass guide him. More than just asking the question – I wanted to know why. Why is it wrong to bend the rules – even if no one is physically hurt or laws are broken – and doing so would be to your benefit? In our winner-takes-all society, is it ok to live in those grey areas to come out on top…and how do you feel about yourself when you do?

I realize that as my son gets older, he’s going to be in those murky situations more and more frequently. The choices that he makes then depend largely on his experiences today. I believe, and deeply hope, that his conscience will lead him in the direction of kindness, fairness, and decency – even at times, when it would be easier (or more advantageous) to play in the gray area. Because I think he knows that you really aren’t winning when you wade into those shades of gray – you’re just better at manipulating the situation. And is that who you really want to be?


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