“Well you ‘can’…but should you?”

in the park


by Kenneth Justice

~One of the things I find fascinating about people watching is that everyone looks like they know where they are going……

In fact, when I step back and look at Western Culture, it seems like our entire society is constantly moving……somewhere…….

The question I woke up with this morning is something I’ve asked myself many times before; where are we all going?

One of my concerns as a psychologist is that I’m seeing a lot of people moving, moving, moving…..but not considering the ramifications of the choices they are making.

A lot of people never ask, “Should I do this?”

they only ask, “Can I do this?”

Do you see the difference between those two questions?

–> ‘Should I do this’ is a great question……it allows us to weigh the consequences of our choices……

–> ‘Can I do this’ is a way of merely asking whether we have the ability to do something:  it doesn’t allow us to reflect on whether we should do it!

“Can I slap my spouse in the face?” –> Well you ‘can’…but you shouldn’t!

“Can I rob a bank?” –> Well you ‘can’ try….but you shouldn’t!

“Can I be a nasty b***h to my friends?”  –> Well you ‘can’….but you probably shouldn’t!

“Can I clone myself and make my clone my slave?” –> Well, if you’re a scientist that knows how to clone humans, you ‘can’ in the sense that you have the ability…..but ‘should‘ you? That is a whole other story!

This past week the United States has been abuzz thanks to a whistle-blower who is holed up at a hotel room in Hong Kong; this ex-NSA employee told us the Government is tracking our texts, phone calls, and even our social media interactions……

I personally have nothing to hide…….but I wonder who came up with the decision to track all of these things?

Did the head of the NSA realize the ramification’s of  what they did?

Obviously they ‘have’ the ability to track all of us…..but ‘should’ they? –> I will leave that to you to figure out.

Not everything in life is a clear black-and-white ethical issue.

Whether or not to slap your spouse in the face is pretty clear cut; don’t do it!

But a lot of the ‘can’ and ‘should’ decisions we face are entirely in the grey area; They are not right-or-wrong choices.

–> ‘Can” you take the new job? Well, you can, but its up to you whether or not you should.

–> ‘Can’ you move to a new city? Well, you can, but its up to you whether or not you should.

It’s up to you and I to make those decisions for ourselves……they are not right-or-wrong decisions. There are implications connected to those choices…..but ultimately we have to do what we feel the most comfortable in doing.

Sometimes our family and friends make us think that every decision is a right-and-wrong moral issue……but that simply is not the case.

A lot of people try to make non-moral issues into moral issues. This is where many religions go askew;

“Drinking alcohol is  a sin”

“Using tobacco or marijuana is a sin”

“Dancing is a sin”

“Being friends with people outside your religion is a sin”

“Disagreeing with your religious leader is a sin”

Religions often make non-moral issues into moral issues…..and the water gets muddy……life gets blurred…..and people get confused.

As with most things….I don’t have all the answers….and sometimes I leave a subject with more questions than answers,

but at least I have the solace of holding my cup of coffee at the end of the day and sipping the nectar of the gods. Thank God Starbucks is brewing Sumatra for a second day in a row!





Categories: Culture & Society

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37 replies

  1. St. Paul, Minnesota. Everyone is eventually going to St. Paul, Minnesota. I hear there is a vortex mall opening there.>KB

  2. Being raised by an Italian Roman Catholic mom I too have seen the blur of right and wrong get tied up in the religious rules and judgements. Being in my 50’s now I can make sense of some of it. But the middle ground I believe is still there for many things. And having more questions than answers is a very good thing in my opinion.

  3. The can is easier for those who don’t want to see the moral questions…..

  4. where i am going…what i am doing…and there so many such things….haey first of all i would like to say thanks to you to put our attention on this amazing thinking thing…and i just love to think about thinking..yeah al are moving western and western people are coming India for PEACE & SPRITUALITY….but the real peace is inside…and inside you there is whole universe….you cannot be better than you and there cannot be anpother you…know yourself better and this world is yours..al yours peace and love…nice blog love to get in contact…..hope you l like PICZLoad ..thanks

  5. we are on the same wave length today…my poem today deals with this… maybe we are drinking the same brew… lol…

  6. Yep, I’m a human being not a human doing. The healthiest change I have made in my way of looking at life is that I don’t have to be always moving moving moving. In the times I am unsure what I feel is right for me to decide I have grown patient and wait, Sometimes the situation I find myself in changes without any decision on my part. Sometimes an intuitive thought arrives.
    Then there are days like today. I am getting a colonoscopy because that is what is right for my health. My mind says NOOOOO, but my growing self love says OK f*mph*! So drink a cup of Sumatra for me and if I live through this, I should be grateful tomorrow.

  7. Move it or lose it! Not considering the should-question is what gets us in trouble all the time. Thinking about ramifications of actions and words before doing or saying is so hard to do. Paul said it well, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15. The human condition, I think.

  8. Sometimes, when I’ve been in foreign countries and haven’t had a clue where I’m going, I still like to wander aimlessly, get lost, and see what interesting things and people I find. But I tend to walk with confidence and intention, as if I know exactly what I’m up to. There may even be some sort of parable in there somewhere 😉

    Coffee time I think.

    • Mark, right on,

      When I travel, I almost ALWAYS wander around with no particular destination in mind. It makes traveling so much more fun. When i go to Latin America every year I never book hotel reservations. I just find places to stay along the way.

  9. Can I or should I… you’re right, those are questions that people typically think of as one and the same.

    Should I leave a reply? Or should I go make a decaf?

  10. great questions! of course, im not sure i’ve ever read anything of yours i haven’t liked. you’re a very astute observer. sadly i can’t exactly remember how i bumped into this blog but very glad i did. 🙂

  11. The questions we ask ourself has two major voices that answers back..one is need another is want..Need is morally correct and legally too..but want..there is where all the test of self control lies..and as far as tracking us is concerned..I have this non-serious idea..I think ( fictionally) all the users identities are getting recorded with their personality traits and character..style..for those who are living in the other planets//they are documenting us..slowly with each astronaut visit, few invisible citizens enter earth without getting noticed..they will replace all of us and then..we will be non-existent ..

  12. Yes, yes, yes!!! High fives and kudos, for this excellent post! I have been contemplating moving to a different state for a while now, but it’s been difficult to look at it with objectivity, because my parents, who are extremely religious, make it into a moral question, determining that it would be wrong for me to move. After my divorce, I needed a lot of help with my kids, and I moved in with them; but I don’t think that means I should now be obligated to stay with my parents forever or live on the same block as them, so my kids can always maintain a close relationship with their grandparents. There are a lot of black and white questions, I agree, but many more, like to move or not to move, that are less about what’s right or wrong, and more about the consequences (good and bad) that will arise from making a certain choice. You’ve given me more to think about on this subject. Great job!!!

    • Kristina,

      dude, best wishes with that decision! Holy cow you have a lot of tough choices ahead of you…..I’ve only temporarily lived in another state once in my life and I know that moving from one state to the next is a pretty big deal.

    • You need to do what is right for you and the kids. Unless your parents are sick and you are the only one around who can help them, then their wanting you to stay is for purely selfish reasons. Religious or otherwise.

  13. Could vs should, one of life’s great lesson & challenges. Great piece as usual 🙂

  14. Why would the government track everyone?

  15. “…something I’ve asked myself many times before; where are we all going?”

    Having studied people for a long time now, the conclusion I’ve reached is ’round and round in circles’. For the stationary observer this makes for an interesting parade.

  16. Hey bro, just thinking it must be vodka in that bottle of hers…helps to keep her finely focused on whats important. 😉 for the moment too deep for me, but I definitely hear all the lines inbetween, oh torturous life we live.

  17. I actually found the opposite to be true for me, but I do appreciate the new look on things. I was once obsessed in the word should, and it was destroying my life, because I was making expectations for everything, and always coming up disappointed. However, when I started looking at things as possibilities, where I can do this or I can do that, I started to be a lot more free.

    What I think is the problem is that they aren’t looking at the possibilities by terms of the consequences. When I analyze a situation of “Can do this” or “Can do that” I always look at the consequences for my actions. I “could” hit my significant other, but do I want to make them afraid of me? Do I really want to hurt them? Do I really want to risk other things on my anger?

    This is how I make it through my decisions, but I can see where you are coming from.

  18. It’s funny that today of all days you talk about moving, moving, moving and morality. Year’s back, I was working in the duty of London for a legal college. I was going in to face another futile showdown iver whether certain student’s terrible exam results should be ‘bumped up’ at a board – the parent’s with the biggest mouths and brightest careers generally got their way whereas those with no such ‘clout’ just got to fail. I was feeling especially dirty as I stepped off the training facing this next round, and as I shuffled off the platform with all the other commuters I was struck by the vision if us all as unhappy ants, marching forward, pumelled on all sides, shoving to get to jobs that turned us into anonymous drones. I was suddenly overtaken by a “No more!” fury and I reboarded the terminated train to go home. I had some explaining to do – that paid me $200 an hour lol I knew I’d better find a job soon. I found one in a local paper abandoned on the train, for a not for profit disability org in desperate need of a development manager. The pay was dreadful I didn’t care.

    Eventually things came about there that were too difficult to ignore so after four years, I did it again. Moved to the coast, a week later, started work at another charity and so began my career in mental health.

    Five years after that I seperated from my husband, went online to fund social groups locally now that I had free time …. and stumbled into an international group where I met the man who was going to become my husband. A month after ‘meeting’ him, I was on a plane headed State side. Just kept moving lol

    Today we decided my husband cannot turn a blind eye to a number of things in his workplace. Done talking about it, done fighting, he took a leaf out if my book and called another institution in the same Dept. … phone interview on Friday lol Only then did we think “oh Oh .. no gas money. But the trash still needed to be taken to the dump so off we went. Chucking all the crap that s two year old deposits in the back of a car, my husband reaches under the seat and pulls out $120!!!! Seriously, that’s s a LOY of money to us .. say a cheap hotel and gas money should he get to leap in the car fir another interview 🙂

    Moving towards morality …. really paid off in this house. Do the right thing for the right reasone be brave and don’t overthink things trying to find the justification for what you want to do rather than what you already know you should …. that’s my two penneth Kenneth 🙂

  19. Aahh, I’m sorry I did laugh at the spouse comment, I know I know, domestic abuse and all that. I’m sorry.
    I have this can I and should I thing with my kids regularly. Depending on the question, I reply with, of course you can, but are you allowed to? And then sometimes I add the, ‘should you’ to it as well. Teaching them in subtle ways, that they CAN do whatever, but are they allowed and should they is the more important question to ask.

    And I am back in the coffee. My first cup this morning, was drunk slowly, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it, but I’m back baby!!!

    Brilliant post. And something more of us should thing about.

  20. Good post as usual. It reminds me of a book, The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry, that I read years ago and thought was pretty profound.

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