Doing the right thing…

October 6, 2015

“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing.”  (The Fray)  – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words Blog.

That line is from the song “All at Once”. One might think (or hope) that it would be easy to do the right thing. Most of the time I believe that we make it hard on ourselves, because the “right thing to do” isn’t always the popular or “in” thing. We don’t stop to really examine our motivation for doing something that we may know in our hearts is not the right thing to do. Instead we temporarily put aside our values and better judgement and make the choices that we think will make us more decisionspopular, more attractive, or maybe more powerful. Sometimes the decisions may involve wealth and we may believe that with more money we will be able to make things right later – only later never comes.

I guess that, getting back to the values upon which we should be basing our decisions, one of our core values should be that we will not abandon our values for convenience sake or for temporary gains. If we say to ourselves that we know right from wrong, then what possible argument can we make to choose wrong? How can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I know this is wrong, but I choose to do it anyway”? Situations come and go, but values like ethics and integrity and honesty stay with us, or at least they should. I’ve posted here before about people who seem to employ “institutional ethics”- ethics that change with the situation. For these people, there is no right or wrong, no black and white, only shades of gray which they get to conveniently define as the situation requires. Convincing yourself that what was right was right for this situation, but perhaps not for another is a slippery slope that you do not want to step out onto.
loving coupleSo, getting this back to a more personal level, sometimes it’s hard to end a relationship, even when you know  in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. Perhaps that “friend” is doing things that you know aren’t right and you don’t want to follow him/her down that path. Maybe that boyfriend or girlfriend has not turned out to be the person that you thought they were and you can’t see a future for the relationship. Perhaps it is even within the context of a marriage and you can now see that your partner has turned out to be someone that you do not want to spend the rest of your life with. That is especially true in abusive relationships. The right thing in each case may be to end the relationship and that is quite often the hardest thing to do.

In those situations; before you consider delivering the old “it isn’t you; it’s me” speech or the old sawangry couple “this just isn’t working out”, stop and take some thoughtful time to examine what your role has been and what efforts you have put into the relationship. No one ever said that relationships were always going to be easy. Marriages especially take work and commitment and compromise from both parties. Perhaps the most honest assessment of a failed relationship could be that you or your partner just weren’t ready to play the expected role.

Maybe you or your partner weren’t mature enough yet to make the commitments and compromises that were required. Perhaps one or both of you allowed certain aspects of the relationship, maybe physical aspects, to overwhelm your better judgement or cloud your perception of the other party and mask their faults. Maybe you even masked your own faults from them in order to get the divorcerelationship going. Over time the fog of “love” clears away and the mascaraed cannot be maintained. When you get to the point of “what you see is what you get”, there needs to be a foundation built on something better than just good sex or good looks or some other superficial thing. If there is no foundation for a future together, then the right thing to do may be to find a way out, even if it is the hardest things to do.

The bottom line for life and relationships is to always try to do the right thing, not necessarily the easiest thing. You will sleep better at night and save the waste of time of having to look over your shoulder to see if some wrong is catching up with you. So; do the right thing, even if it is the hardest thing.

Judge not…

October 2, 2015

“Instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in their place.”  (Amish Proverb) – a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

This little saying may sound like good advice, but it is only good advice for a reason that makes sense when you really think about it. There is an old saying that may make more sense – “Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  The Walk a Mile in His Moccasins quote is often contributed to various Indian tribes, but it actually comes from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895.

So, why does the advice in that poem ring truer that the Amish Proverb? The main reason is actually very logical. We cannot put ourselves in anyone else’s place. We cannot know how they got to where they are, what they have opinionatedexperienced in their lives or even what just proceeded the current moment.  If we try to put ourselves in their place the first thing that happens is that one is overwhelmed by a bunch of questions for which we have no answers. What happened to make them angry or fearful or remorseful or sad? What was it that we might have done or said that they reacted to and why? What were they on their way to do when this incident happened? What happened before this to put them in the frame of mind to react as they did? You just can’t answer those questions; and, because you can’t, you can’t put yourself in their place.

The other little piece of advice actually invites one to spend some time experiencing the things that this person has experienced, gaining the knowledge and insights that this person has and trying to come closer to the frame of mind that they might have been in before passing any judgement. Those are all good things and overall that is good advice; albeit also hard, if not impossible to implement inour daily lives.

Perhaps the best thig that can come out of the Amish Proverb is the realization and admission that you cannot put yourself in the other person’s place.  If you cannot understand why he/she may have reacted the way they did to something that you said or did, then why would you feel justified to render some judgement or to take some action. The act of “putting someone in their place” is really an attempt to put them into a place that you define, based upon your values and your reaction to the events leading up to your decision to act; to criticize or to correct. Perhaps
no judgementinstead of rushing to put someone else in their place you need to examine the place that you are currently occupying. You may not like what you see there.

My favorite Pope Francis quote is the one that he made in response to a question about his view of gay clergy – “Who am I to judge.” Indeed the same can be said about most of life’s situations in which we rush to judge others, their behavior, their looks or their lifestyle. Most of us are not willing to take the time to walk a mile in their moccasins just to try to gain insight into their lives; so, we should also reserve judgement and criticism. After all, who are we to judge?  Remember Mathew 7:1  – “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

At the end of the day, we may make better use of our energy making sure that we are in control of our own behavior, rather than worrying about trying to control the behavior of others. Have a great weekend.