Insert moral compass here

Not many people know this, but I used to be a Christian.

I say 'used to be' because by even the most liberal interpretation of the label, I am not one, although I still pray, believe in our Lord and Saviour Jesus, and the holy trinity. I don't read the bible anymore since I found out how it was put together. And I don't go to church anymore because I simply don't believe in an institution that's created and run by man. My faith has become an intimate, personal relationship between my God, his Son and me. And no matter what other people say, I know it's real.

You won't believe it too, when I tell you I used to be a very religious kid, although I had quite a tough time determining which was what when I was a kid because my parents, although they aren't Christians (were never baptised), believed in sending my sis and I to Sunday school and then to youth groups, while never ever having attended any sermons with us. We were simply dropped there every Sunday, where we'd spend the whole day with our church friends, and then mom would pick us up at five in the evening.

Nobody at the church ever met our parents, which must've been really strange to the church members because really, who do these kids belong to? And who drops their kids off at church and never checks to see if they're being inculcated into some kinda cult?

Thankfully, none of that happened, although for quite a few years, my sis and I were quite the goody-goody holy girls, which was good, I suppose, for my parents. And I loved my old church. Some of my best childhood memories were of my days spent there, attending Sunday School, and then service, bible classes, bible camps, playing in the church yard with my friends, forming crushes on boys, breaking some hearts as well.

It was just one big, seemingly neverending spiritual + social experience for me.

Now that I have kids, I'm in a bit of a jam as to how I can teach them about what is good and bad in the world. Just the other day, I was lecturing Rae about being safe at the playground, about how there are bad people in the world who would try to take her and her sister away.

"Where do bad people live, Mommy?" she'd asked.

"I wished I knew," I'd answered.

Wouldn't it be nice if all the bad people live neatly in their designated zones, and the good people in theirs?

"Are there bad people in OUR park?" she continued.

"They're everywhere, I suppose. And that's why we have to be really careful," I answered, not really sure if that was the right thing to say. I didn't want fear to overcome her each time we visited a park or playground. But one can never be too safe these days.

I don't think Rae understands still, the difference between good and evil, and this perplexes me because essentially, the Tan household is not religious. Lokes is an agnostic. But, although he doesn't believe in God, he allows me to practise parts of my faith, providing they're not TOO extreme. For instance, we pray at bedtime, and Lokes, the sweet man, will 'pray' with us, folded hands and everything, although I know he's probably just thinking about work.

I know not being religious doesn't mean you can't inculcate morals. Just that it makes it a much more challenging task. After all, what could be simpler than telling your child he or she has to behave because God is always watching? Of course, this depends on how smart (or not) one's child is. This climate of constant fear is exactly what Lokes is afraid of cultivating. And so, we always have quite a bit of explaining to do whenever we need her to understand that some things are just not done, like not telling the truth, or taking something that doesn't belong to her, or stepping on a bug.

How do you 'install' a moral compass into your child without getting too religious? Is it practical to have to manually steer your child away from 'sin', each time he or she trips up? How do you explain why showing off is rude while being proud is of your accomplishments isn't? And how do you deal with the times they successfully get away with doing something bad, and it's too late to punish them?

One answer I keep coming up with, is to teach by example. But it gets kinda tricky, waiting for a situation to arise that allows you to show your kids how to NOT lie, or NOT to steal.

Should we camp out at a playground just waiting for some other kid to misbehave so I can THEN tell Rae, "Okay, see that there? That's NOT okay."

I must be going out of my mind for thinking that up.

Ah well. Maybe this can be Daddy's job, setting his kids on the straight and narrow.


  1. Amy said

    I’ve been brought up in a household where my mom and dad believes that with good morals, one does not have to be afraid of whatever the religious people think you are when you do not belong in a faith. They let us have free rein over what religion we want to choose, but they teach us about what is ethically right, rather than what is “religiously” right. And that is what I am thankful for. I agree with you, that nowadays I feel that the topic of religion is getting out of hand, with its people, not God, dictating and judging other people. That is so wrong. I only have one faith: to do unto others. It has never let me down. Teaching your kids about what is morally right, while spelling out the consequences and letting them make their own decisions will ultimately gain you much respect. If you feel it’s a little difficult to maintain such standards, then perhaps your kids will think so too. Leading by example is a way to go, but don’t beat yourself up over it. 🙂

  2. Erna said

    I like telling people…”I believe in God, I just have a problem with religion.” God didn’t invent religion, man did. And that’s why it’s such an unholy mess. And with God, to believe in Him and His son is pretty much the best place to start from. From faith comes the desire to live in the way He intended and not by dictates from someone who thinks he has a direct line with God.

    If real-life situations don’t present you with the opportunity to teach, there’s always books. 😀 Plenty of characters you can use to show children what’s good and what’s not.

  3. Yea, I have books on telling the truth and being a good listener hehe. That works pretty well, but kids are very clever nowadays. They TEST you.

    And boy, do they test you.


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