I've always tried to live right, but I find myself in a thorny situation. I'm stuck between two guys I've been hanging with recently. Both of them have plenty of faults, and— long story short— have criminal records; the first guy's really sorry about it, while the second guy's more live and let live, "let's just get out of here." That first one treats me so kindly, and apologies profusely for any trespasses he has made, to tears, almost; the other is kind of acerbic, taunting... but, if we're being honest, challenging. Which— and maybe it's just the influence of the people I've been spending time with over the last couple of years— I find myself really drawn to. I want to save him, y'know?

I'm set to take a long, very important business/family trip very soon, and could use a companion— both of them seem eager to come. I'm not sure if taking both is an option— I know not what happens next, really. Whom do I take with me? Should I leave them both behind?

-JC, Golgotha


Listen, it’s totally fine to spend time with people whose values oppose your own. Having relationships with people does not condone everything they do. You can be intimately involved with a person and still view the quality of his or her thoughts and actions with objective distance.

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Part of being a good person is being open to people who are not so good, and part of being a friend is making flawed acquaintances feel as if they can tell you about their flaws (without fear of abandonment or persecution). In fact, if you’re the type of person who wants to associate exclusively with those who perfectly mirror your own ethical worldview, you’re reducing significantly the scope of your potential life experience. Learning to forgive and accept is important... it's friendship gospel, really. Who are you to judge others?

That said... no matter which one you choose, you're going to be stuck. It sounds like both of these guys have their own crosses to bear... some issues that might be difficult to resolve when you're surrounded by the rocky confines of the road. Maybe you just want to travel light here. Sometimes, just cranking some rock, hanging with family, and disappearing for a while can make things clearer. It may make them unhappy, but, hell— there's no need to be a martyr.

The Moralist appears on alternate Fridays, when he's not telling you what band you'll like if you prefer Mountain to Zeppelin in your heart of hearts, or assaying the '80s Lakers fastbreak like it was a goddamn religious treatise.