Life Hack for Getting Suddenly Awesome: Don’t Define Your Morality Too Strictly


In Death in the Afternoon, a book about Spanish bullfighting, Ernest Hemingway writes: “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after and judged by these moral standards, which I do not defend, the bullfight is very moral to me because I feel very fine while it is going on and have a feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality, and after it is over I feel very sad but very fine.”

My happiness tip of the day: don’t define your morality too strictly. Many life situations won’t fit in the box you give them, and you’ll end up needlessly defending yourself all the damn time.

What do you think about this quote? Do you agree? I’d love to read your comments.


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  1. Aren’t morality and mortality two different things? Makes the quote hard to analyze for me. About morality (morals) I think Hemingway’s definition is a bit vague leaving me to ponder, which I bet he would be glad to hear (smiles)

  2. Morality is the opposite of hypocrisy.

    If you do not agree to be stabbed to death slowly while being toyed with, they you should also not do the same to others.

    You implicitly agree to be treated the way you treat others regardless of what you think. Refusing to see this truth by blinding your mind does not stop it from happening.

  3. Wow. Big issue! Yet one which has so much bearing on our self-image and sense of self-worth.

    Philosophers have many possible approaches to the subject, but I define the notions thus: *morality* is based on a code of values which is seen as absolute (usually because it was ordained religiously, or because it is a tradition so ingrained in a group that it assumed to be automatic and inescapable), while *ethics* looks to the immediate situation and balances multiple differing notions of what’s appropriate and proper in order to arrive at the best outcome.

    Whew! Wordy, ain’t I? While it all comes down to what sits right at the end of the day … well, oh dear, moral and ethical solutions to the same problem can often conflict and contradict each other! Gulp! Then waddaya do?

    In the end, I suppose it’s whatever agrees with your values and thus your conscience.

  4. But I’m not satisfied with what I just wrote. There are too many loopholes and problems. You can be a follower of a widely-shared moral code that is, shall we say, socially negative, and thus feel quite good about committing heinous (though sanctioned!) crimes in the name of some great principle; alternately, the “proper” ethical decision is never clear-cut and is based on perpetually shifting ideas of what ought to be done….

    And thus I get confuzzled.

    1. Love your response – so thoughtful!

      I am a big believer in letting yourself change and grow, and not sticking with any one idea to strongly. I believe in God, the spirit realm, and an ultimate, reality-based morality, but any of those things could change for me at any time… Though I HAVE a theology, I don’t cling to it. Not anymore.

  5. Agree. Situational ethics is more practical than absolutism. It is common sense but often only experience will inform us so. For a classic understanding of how flawed absolutist ethics can be check Immanuel Kant who propagated such living but contradicted his own moral code by doing so.

    1. Everyone’s moral code is fluid, whether they believe it is or not! And personally, I think it’s not because we are bad people… but because we don’t truly believe deep down that we are always right about everything. (Which is a good thing!)

  6. Ah, but I think you’re defining morals as something broader than many would. Beliefs, ethics, ethos, they would all come under your criteria. I think you need to establish what those are for yourself to have a happy(or happier) life. Our moral code probably doesn’t change but we imperfect mortals do change and mess up. Which is why there’s guilt. Thought provoking. 🙂

  7. Our moral fibre is always in a point of flux because until it is tested by life it has nothing to base itself on.

    If we adhere to others’ moral codes without once testing it in the laboratory of experience (commonly called life) we merely have a theory espoused by others not a truth we know for ourselves.

    Testing ourselves in this way is a sign our soul is creating experiences to expand consciousness of us as the individual and us as the whole.

    Fascinating isn’t it when we stop to think……….