A moral person is not someone who follows arbitrary rules or commands. A moral person is not someone who answers to “God.” A moral person is actually someone who “answers” to objective reality, something ascertained and understood through the honest and competent functioning of one’s own reasoning mind. The higher power isn’t a supernatural ghost, but our real and concrete capacity for reason.
The way morality displays itself, in daily life, is through character. Character is integrity to what you think, know or honestly believe to be true. A person of high character does not “think” one thing in the presence of one group of friends and associates, and then “think” an entirely different thing in the presence of another group. The person of high character isn’t selfless, like the person of low character — who changes from day to day and group to group. The person of high character actually possesses a strong sense of self, flowing from this habit of the mind, to think objectively and independently. There are people of low character who are nice and don’t mean any harm. The tendency is to assume, “They can’t be bad.” But in their weakness and insecurity, they still lack character and don’t deserve your respect and most definitely not your trust. Think of a person with low integrity as a bridge lacking in structural integrity. Are you prepared to drive over that bridge?
Low character erodes your sense of self-respect. How could it not? I don’t respect people who say and think one thing, and then selflessly do something entirely different in the presence of certain others. If I cannot respect a person of low character, that person surely cannot respect him- or herself. In this sense, self-esteem and morality are connected. To feel good about yourself, you have to know that you ARE good. If you haven’t been good, then by using a rational standard you can get yourself there, starting immediately.