Standing at the Crossroad of a Moral Dilemma

Do you remember standing at a crossroad, where your heart, mind, instincts or morals were pulling you in different directions?

Do you recall wrestling with hard choices, when values you held dear collided?
Have you ever traded moral responsibility for a quick reward?
Such moments are inevitable in our lives. There are often no simple solutions.

Tell us about your experience. What crossroad have you had to face? What was that experience like for you? What have you learned in the process?

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Moral Dilemma Stories

On Leaving Israel . . . Again

I was caught by surprise with the results of the recent 2022 election in not-so Holy Land (AKA Israel) where the party that stands for “A good Arab is a Dead Arab” won more than 10% of the vote. The chaos and lawlessness in the south, and the north of Israel, and the as yet (50+ years later) unresolved conflict about Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank, feels once more like I need to leave Israel AGAIN, for ‘moral reasons’ the way I left in the late 1970’s.

— Ofer Zur

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Daily Dilemma

I struggle to remember that other people exist. Of course, I know that they do, in theory. In theory, they have hopes, dreams, fears, children, lovers, moments of both sublime joy and of abject humiliation and despair. It’s the basic human quandary and establishes just how narcissistic I am…every single, and many times a day. A major guru (shrink) of mine prescribes that I continually offer unconditional positive regard to all beings. But I’m spotty on that. I have exceptions: my ex, Mr. Trump, fellow motorists. Honestly, anyone can make the list at any time, as I fight to pull well-being and self-esteem from others’ actions and imagined motivations, instead of from…contact with God/spirit? My dead but lively mother? The correct regulation of sleep, diet, and exercise? The degree of love shining from my womanfriend’s eyes? Or from my son’s, or daughter’s?

I remember a signal moment from last year. I’d emerged from the local, downtown, used-bookseller’s shop into bright afternoon sunlight and was about to get into my car. As I opened the door, I was struck by a slow, warm, huge feeling of belonging and togetherness with everyone around, both everyone I could see there and could imagine in a circle ranging far out from those downtown blocks. It was pure joy.

How long did the feeling last? Not long. What preceded it? Several weeks' hard work on my guru’s prescription.

My daily moral dilemma: to be mindful what works and to choose it.

— Kevin Simmons

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I Know This Much is True

When I read the novel, "I know this much is True," by Wally Lamb I related to the characters because their circumstances were eerily like my own. The dilemma I have faced, and our family has faced, for years is how to help a precious family member who is mentally ill.

I cannot count how many times I've visited this member in and out of hospitals, or received late night phone calls.

Morally our family tries to be encouraging, but emotionally are exhausted. Years of extensive therapy and different medication changes have seemed to not be helpful.

The dilemma I face as an adult is will I take care of this family member, or will I have to say I cannot. There are no easy answers and even less hope for help at this point.

My mother often cries, as have I year after year, hoping for relief to suffering for this loved one.

— Anonymous  

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Where is humanity in an inhumane world?

The crossroads that I am at, strangely, occurred with the zero tolerance policy for immigrants under the Trump Administration, when children and parents were separated at the southern border of the United States. I was upset, horrified and outraged when I saw these happenings and still am. It is hard for me to justify my viewpoint that "America is a land made up of immigrants."

Many friends/family do not share my viewpoint and think that these means are justified to secure stability and security for our country. I feel that by remaining silent I have condoned this behavior, but feel powerless to help and offer assistance. I would like to look into ways to help people that are suffering from politically oppressive regimes, and work to support tolerance and understanding between all nationalities and citizens.

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— MM  

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Awareness To One's Truth

— Carmita

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The Discovery

— Anonymous  

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Helping by Not Helping

As a psychotherapist, I've helped many clients deal with this dilemma, but being in this field has also put me in this quandary myself, and I'm sure it will happen again.

There have been times when I've had to make the difficult, frightening, and often sad decision to let a client know that it was in their best interest that I no longer “help” them. It has been for a variety of reasons in the past, and there will be new reasons that I will probably need to do likewise in the future.

But the central moral dilemma is the same: I know I've been helpful to that person, sometimes it's been for years of seeing them, yet circumstances have changed such that I have to acknowledge that what I have to offer is either no longer sufficient, and/or has become detrimental to their further growth. In those situations where it has hit me that this is the case, it's been a painful process of acknowledging my savior wishes and rescue fantasies, then override them, then have to find ways to gently yet firmly explain to the client that I can no longer work with them, and help facilitate getting them to more sufficient help – not an easy process at all!

I had two such cases at the same time about a year ago, and that was how I got to know Ofer, by reaching out to him for ethics consultations. He was so incredibly helpful in navigating those muddy, emotional waters. In both cases, the clients went on to thrive in ways that would've been impossible had I stubbornly, pridefully continued to try to “help” them.

I have to admit though, that I struggled afterward with a bit of, “Really? I was holding them back that much?” It was a bit of a blow to the ego (humble pie may not be tasty but is sure can be healthy), but well worth the profound satisfaction in knowing that I'd truly helped them by not helping them anymore.


— Laura L.  

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The junction of Instinct and Rationality

— Ofer

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To Leave or Not to Leave: This Was My Question

In the 1970’s (my 20’s), I stood at one of the most profound and significant crossroads of my life. At this junction, facing Israel, my homeland, I asked myself: “Should I continue living here? Or is it time to leave and move on?”

I debated long and hard. On the one hand, I felt deeply connected to Israel as my birth place and as the home of my family and friends. The language, the music, and the landscape were my own. My history was intimately linked with that place: it was there that my parents found safety from the Nazis in the 30’s.

On the other hand, I could no longer take part in an oppressive regime that was occupying Palestinian territories, illegally and immorally, since the 1967 war. I did not want my kids to go to a war that I did not believe in. In my mind, the argument that the occupation was necessary because “Israel will not let the holocaust happen again,” was no longer a justification of Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinian people.

For many years I debated, discussed and weighed my options. I reflected on my thoughts and beliefs as I wrestled with my conscience, hopes, and fears. I contemplated my familial, communal and cultural affiliation against my moral commitments.

While I could have stayed in Israel and actively fight the occupation, as many of my friends and family members chose to do, this did not resonate with my conscience. In following this choice, in my mind, I would have turned into either a bystander or a colluder in the occupation's atrocities, rather than a ‘peace activist’ protesting against them.

Eventually, I elected to leave. I have been at peace with my decision but there is a price I pay: Even though I visit Israel often, at times, I still miss Friday night family gatherings, the music, the language, friends, the desert, Jerusalem, the Red-Sea . . .

2 Choices

— Ofer Zur

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A Fateful Leap of Faith at 19

Entering Hofstra University on Long Island as a clueless 17 year old, I had no idea what I wanted. to do with my life. I was good at math, so I became accounting major. During my second year, I asked myself, "Why am I doing this to myself? I don't like accounting!"

The only class I enjoyed at Hofstra was my English class, which was a surprise because I disliked English in high school. In fact, I hated reading. But in that English class with Dr. Chalfant, something awakened in me. I was enthralled as we read and discussed Gulliver's Travels and other novels. For the first time, I felt comfortable raising my hand in class to respond to his questions and he was always supportive and validating of my views, as wild as they sometimes were. And he inspired me to write, which I still do today. For the first time in my life, I was getting A's in English!

One day while bored in accounting class, I realized I needed to decide whether to continue being miserable or change my major. I stumbled into Dr. Chalfant's office to discuss it. He was occupied, but his wife was there. She had muscular dystrophy and was in a wheel chair. She looked like a beautiful angel. I shared my dilemma and how much I loved his class. Without hesitation she said, "You should change your major and take as many classes with him as possible. He's amazing!" I was speechless, but it resonated. I decided to take classes I was interested in and trust that it would lead somewhere. I'm grateful that I did--and it did. Thanks Dr. Chalfant!

— John Amodeo, Ph.D.

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Healthcare Companies that Prioritize Profit over Care

I was working as a consultant for a major chain of for-profit, mostly inpatient mental health hospitals. I was actually hired to prepare the facilities for compliance and accreditation, but I was also highly encouraged to assist the company in expanding the base target market which was individuals with generous insurance coverage.

One of the methods this company utilized was to hire RN's to respond to, travel and evaluate potential clients for inpatient eating disorder treatment; predictably the evaluation was largely based on insurance coverage versus actual healthcare needs.

This moral dilemma was exacerbated by the lucrative financial contract I was operating under and my need to provide for my family

Ultimately I quit the company after several unsuccessful attempts to encourage a more wholistic approach. The next for-profit company I worked for, first as a consultant and then as an employee, was a company that demonstrated thoughtful care for its clients, employees, and the counties it served, validating for me that profit and integrity need not be mutually exclusive.

— JMD  

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Deciding on a Path Before It Was Too Late

I remember my early 40s when I found out I had autoimmune disease (a platelet disorder). At first I couldn't believe the news ... I was in classic denial. Slowly reality seeped in and I accepted the fact that I would have to take oral chemo the rest of my life.

The next two years were awkward. I joined the ranks of the unemployed and entered a system that is woefully inadequate to take care of one person, let alone two (my young daughter and I). Yes, the oral chemo was that debilitating; I could barely get up in the morning. Thankfully my brain still worked (although I'm not sure why when everything else wasn't).

I decided to study and meditate ... to ponder my ideas about the world. I visited a coffee house in the early mornings armed with books of all types and pads of paper; I read alot, including many dissenting opinions, and wrote. I became a philosopher of sorts as I got reaquainted with myself on a whole new inner level.

While this was great, I knew I needed to get off the chemo, as it was worse than the disease. Conventional medicine was only helping me into the grave. I tried my first holistic treatment, stopped the chemo, and lo and behold, the progression of the disease process stopped.

The next 25 years are history; I'm on a path that is life-giving...and today I enjoy abundant health.

What has been your life story? Want to try something different? Educate yourself, listen to your heart, and trust it.

Have a happy, holistically healthy day.

To Life!


— Dr. Donna Poppendieck

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To Disclose Or Uphold My Professional Duty

In the beginning, it sounded perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I didn't believe it existed. I would be working with a population that I had always wanted to, I felt like my education and my life experiences had uniquely qualified me for.

I had been so excited that I decided to leave the life I had loved -- living on my boat, running along the beach every day, and feeling like I had finally mastered the art of slowing down. I told myself it would be perfect. I had written off the strange behavior of the founder of the facility.

Maybe he was just very excited too, I told myself. I accepted the position and found myself listening to the clients' stories-dreams lost, passions left behind, and the lifelong struggle to find themselves within the weight they'd gained. I looked forward to facing challenges with them, combatting demons that had plagued them and celebrating the small victories embedded in their experience.

Yet each day the founder wanted to know more. He asked me what the clients were sharing with me. I told him that confidentiality applied and I was not at liberty to disclose what had been shared with me. The words fell on deaf ears and the pressure became more intense every day. He began to hint that my job may depend on my disclosure.It was the question between doing the work I love, and protecting my license and in turn, my future. One answer hinged upon the other, and in the end, rationality had to win out.

This time, I could not follow my heart.


— Claire Nana, MA  

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go

So many moral dilemmas to choose from, my world is rife with these clashes, perhaps I chose that experience for this life.

There, of course, are the dilemmas of the personal kind I've gone through, should I keep the baby even though the father is abusive, and addict, unavailable, even though I am not ready to be a mom, I don't want a baby with this man, I can't afford a kid, I don't want to end up a mom like my mom... those stories happened, they are real dilemmas, gut-wrenching excruciating no one wins dilemmas.

But what comes to mind recently, during our nations crumbling democracy and staggering inequities is my dilemma about money. Should I quit my public school teacher job that does not cover basic expenses for me and my kids and teach a private, privileged pod for well to do [mostly white] rich folks, making 3 to 4 times as much $ but abandoning those whom I love to serve. My dilemma, I want to care for my kids, I want to be secure for them to feel stability, but not at the expense of my moral code, my belief in fair and free education for all. So, I decided to stay in my public school job.

I am trusting being true to my beliefs will reward me tenfold in so many ways to receive abundance, and that is the legacy I wish to share with my kids. That being a good person, making good choices, builds character and self love.


— Sas  

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