Admit it, we’ve all done something a bit unethical or unkind. Before and after the act was done, didn’t we feel heavy in the pit of our gut? That feeling of doubt, fear, and misgiving was much stronger than our conscience about violating ethical standards or the law. Perhaps the transgression brought about a nauseous sensation or faintness. That combination is a qualm.

Many of society’s codes of ethics and statutes have their original beginnings in our qualms. Qualms are deeper than the simple knowledge of right and wrong. They are the alarm bells of the mind that warn us that we are about to commit a transgression or if we have done so, the qualms supercharge our conscience with racing heartbeat, perspiration, and an anxious mindset. Qualms might be called the body’s physical manifestation of moral awareness.

George Santos?

In today’s parlance, qualms have become a synonym for misgivings and most often used in the negative form of “no qualms”. For instance, someone might rationalize a life of crime by believing they have to commit fraud because they cannot find legitimate work to support their families. They might tell us that they have no qualms about inventing scams to cheat people because they have to pay off obligations.

In its current useage, the phrase, “have qualms” is used to substitute for the phrases, “have misgivings” and “have regrets”. In this sense, people may say they have no qualms about committing an unethical act or about admitting their personal flaws. In such instances, qualms could be felt because the person is about to commit a stupid act. The qualms are also felt when there is doubt about whether or not it is wise to confess a personal secret.

Qualms are also felt when deciding to make a major purchase such as acquiring an expensive car. Going ahead with such a decision might profoundly impact one’s family budget or financial solvency. It’s that pit in the stomach feeling someone may experience before signing the mortgage agreement.

In simple terms, qualms are our personal ethics’ physical last ditch alert system. We can either pause and mindfully consider repurcussions; or we can ignore the niggling sensations and forge ahead. Qualms are a subset of fear. Sometimes it’s wise to heed that fear, and other times it’s wise to act despite that fear. This is because qualms often underline existential decisions. Qualms tell us to look before we leap.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes journalist and writer, Kurt Eichenwald. “If a doctor said you had stomach cancer, would you consult Rush Limbaugh for a second opinion? Of course, that sounds like nonsense, but many Americans have no qualms about listening to political commentators and untrained activists when it comes to even more complex scientific questions.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in philosophy, Politics, religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Qualms

  1. It is particularly bad if we had no intention of doing something ethically wrong (e.g. if we are in a different culture) and then the realization of our actions hits us like a bad bolt 🙂 Especially when we recognize in reflection that there have already been qualms. Human nature…..

  2. bloom|time says:

    ‘If you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to serve as a horrible warning.’ The other one in the news is Alex Murdaugh and, like many others, I’ve been unnaturally obsessed with that case. It’s so Shakespearean in its tragic proportions and also just so shocking when you see a sociopath on full display like that. (Whether you agree with the verdict or not, he’s clearly an extreme sociopath just based on the life decisions he DOES admit to.) And Santos clearly took the “fake it til you make it” advice to heart… but in a literal way. What an embarrassement to voters, to the GOP, and to the whole nation. Is this another wart of late-stage capitalism? We’ve certainly elected swine before… and every southern holler sure had its Murdoch oligarchs… but there’s something SO excessive about the greed and lies in these cases… maybe excess is what marks too much of our world these days.

    • swabby429 says:

      I’m gobsmacked at how cruel the leadership of the GOP continues to be. They have no guiding light aside from fealty to the previous President.

  3. Great post, I love that you included the picture but didn’t actually talk about him and yet we all are wondering if he has any qualms. Maggie

  4. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    💜 Defining “unethical and unkind” according to ourselves is a tricky business EveryOne; because Mental Health is Stigmatised and we walk on eggshells when the topic of Mentally Ill and Mental Illness crops up whatever the situation EveryBody

    nisi mortuus nec neque nolite vicit 🤭🤫🤐



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