Just do the right thing

I’m borrowing a life lesson from my Daddy tonight because I’m fresh out of my own: “When we do what’s right, the Lord blesses us.”

In another belief system, this might be called karma. What goes around comes around. Do right, and blessings come to you.

This is not to be confused with playing tit for tat with God. I think a lot of people are looking for the easy way out these days, and maybe they always have been. Everybody wants something for nothing. Everybody wants boundless profit from putting forth the minimal effort to just be a decent human being. This is not my Daddy’s idea of right.

In my family, we were taught to do the right thing no matter what. We were taught to do the right thing with no expectation of reward. We were taught to do the right thing even to the extent of personal risk and personal loss.

I’ve had my Daddy’s saying on my mind this week because one of my friends was talking about this characteristic in me the other day. She said to another friend, “Sharon is going to do what she thinks is right if it brings the whole world crashing down on her head. You can’t bribe her out of it, and you can’t threaten her out of it. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but if her value system is crossed, she is made of iron. It’s because she is a Gerald. They are all the same.”

I think this was a nice way of saying that I have a stubborn streak a mile wide. It’s also a good compliment to my parents who taught us that there is no ultimate reward for doing the wrong thing. Doing the wrong thing is separation from God. Doing the wrong thing is separation from peace of mind.

Doing the right thing, then, is an act of selfishness even when it does bring the world crashing down. It’s selfish because it’s about peace of mind. The expectation of blessings, though, is a little more humble where I come from than what you hear from the prosperity preachers who talk about how people can get rich off of connecting with God. Blessings, by my Daddy’s definition, are things like self-respect and peace of mind and a clean conscience. They are things like the joy of knowing you’ve been able to make a difference, the ability to appreciate what you already have, and the simple satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your best.

There is also the idea that if you do what’s right and you have faith your basic needs will be met. You don’t do the right thing to receive things, though. You do the right thing just because it is right. Blessings might result, but the real blessings are blessings of the spirit. Those are the ones that count. Those are the ones that mean happiness.

I’ve been writing out my own definitions of happiness this week, so add this one to the list. Happiness is freedom from inner conflict.

Do the right thing no matter what. Do the right thing to the best of your knowledge and ability. If you haven’t always done the right thing in the past, sitting around feeling bad about that won’t help nearly as much as resolving to do better from now on. Just put your work boots on and get busy doing right as best as you are able. If you think you’ve done the right thing, and then you learn differently, apologize, make amends, and do better next time. Do absolutely the best you know how. Don’t let anyone or any circumstance talk you into anything different.

If you put your flat level best into doing the right thing, you will be blessed with freedom from inner conflict, and that is what happiness means to me.

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