June 1, 2011
Learn the Habit of Doing the Right Thing
Keeping Yourself Honest and Trustworthy
Getting into the habit of choosing what’s right instead of what’s easy or tempting will bring you great success in all areas of your life, especially with the people you love.
Taught To Be Good
Just about every one of us has been taught to be a good person by our parents, church, or culture. We have been told to be honest, be obedient, do our homework, obey the law, be helpful, and not hurt others for no good reason. And yet all of us have fouled up some time. That’s what redemption is for, and forgiveness, confession, apology, and making amends. Because our nature is a communal one, we thrive on cooperation, attachment, and assistance. And, with the exception of criminals and sociopaths, we would agree that human mistreatment of humans unravels the fabric of society and spirit.
Doing the Wrong Thing
Unless you’ve trained yourself to be a person of total integrity, you are probably tempted to say or do things you know are wrong. Although doing “big” wrong things is part of this principle, here we address the typical things that many people succumb to: Saying angry words (criticizing, name-calling, belittling), showing angry behavior (slamming doors, storming out), giving the cold shoulder, speeding through a yellow light, taking a small item that’s not yours, being overly blunt, denying your feelings, or telling a “white lie” to get someone off your back.
And what about doing things that we think we have a “right” to do because someone has offended us or because the world has treated us unfairly? We may have sent a critical and harsh email to a friend or relative who has hurt our feelings, thinking we have the right to “get them back” or “tell them off.” Perhaps you’ve not told the waiter that he undercharged you or returned too much change to you. Or given a store’s customer service a difficult time even though you are way past the store’s return policy. Or held off giving to charities because you feel you are not well-off enough to do so.
Doing the Right Thing
So, doing the right thing would be telling the truth with diplomacy, being respectfully assertive, apologizing when wrong (without a “but you…”), helping someone who appears lost, saying a kind word even when you are not in a great mood, and managing your anger or irritability. What’s this kind of thing get you?
- Builds Character. Think of this trite expression as “making you a person of principle and integrity.” Your character is strong and honorable.
- Builds Trust. People believe you have their back, that you want them to have a good life, and trust that you want the best for them.
- Endears You. Doing what’s right attracts others to you, and they experience feelings of admiration and affection.
- Teaches Your Children. Making right choices, especially when difficult to do, is the strongest way to teach your children to do the same.
Whether you choose to do the right thing or the wrong thing, it will cost you. There are benefits to doing either, and so if you choose one over the other, you lose the benefit of the other. Choosing the right thing, you give up the benefit of immediate gratification and the easy way out, and avoidance of some social disapproval. Choosing the wrong thing, you give up the benefit of others’ trust and honor, and long-term personal and professional advantages. Your value system will dictate your choice and your outcome.
Rise Above the Crowd
Saying and doing the right thing means choosing the right words and action whether or not someone is looking. You make a choice out of a principle you hold dear. This truly puts you a “cut above” most people. It’s not done out of arrogance or feeling “better than” other people. You can live the life of a saint, a diplomat, or an all-around “good guy” or “good gal” without looking for praise or a medal. At some point, many rewards and unsuspected recognition come to you without you having to ask for them.
Get yourself to do the right things by adopting these steps:
1st Since doing the right thing often brings temporary inconvenience, always highlight a strong reason when you make that choice. Journal it to deepen it.
2nd If there are choices, even minor ones, where you compromise what you know is right, start with one of them and plan a different path, and how you will handle any fallout.
3rd Pick a famous person and a person within your social circle (whether living or deceased) who have operated on values of truth, principle, and social good. Find some practical ways to model yourself on them.