The Trouble with Doing Right

I read this quote the other day, and the thoughts that it brought about are very much part of my journey in self-awareness. The quote is by Walt West and he say “The trouble with doing something right the first time is that no one appreciates how difficult it was.” I feel this fairly often. I’ve never been someone to take the path of least resistance, especially in regards to relationships. I’ve never been able to feel strongly and not address that with someone. Especially when I feel that addressing it is truly the right thing to do. This usually results in me feeling like I’m constantly surrounded by conflict. But no matter how hard I try, I am not content with sweeping things under a rug. Let’s talk about it, understand each other, learn something, and then be better because of it. When I am defending another person, it is nearly impossible to stay quiet.

A month or so ago, my boss just shook his head, chuckled, and walked away as I stood there challenging a superior about the way he mistreated individuals. Afterwards, my boss said, “you are absolutely right in what you are saying, it is just a waste of time, he isn’t going to change. It is a tar baby.” I know that is true, but I just cannot let him get by in life never challenged for his wrong actions. I feel that saying nothing is far worse that wasting your breath. Most times that I feel the need to speak up, it doesn’t change much. At least not that I know of. But occasionally, I say something and something changes. Sometimes, that person realizes something they never had before.  All the people in their life may have seen the way they were, but no one ever actually said something to them. No one ever told them that they way they talked to their spouse was degrading. Or that they don’t live up to their potential. Or that they keep finding themselves in bad relationships because they don’t value themselves enough. Sometimes, it makes a difference. And as hard as speaking up can be, knowing that even if only occasionally it pays off… then it is worth it.

I know some will say that my personality lends to my ability to say something. That is probably true. I am far more outspoken than most. But I’m still scared to death nearly every time I speak up. (Unless I am angry, and those are usually the cases I should NOT have spoken up.) My stomach is in knots. I hate the discomfort that comes with speaking up. But I despise the feeling of words left unspoken. I despise the thought of someone completely unaware of how they hurt another person. If someone would just show them, they might change. So much stress and hurt in their life might be alleviated. Perhaps what I hate most is to see someone with so much potential, but selling themselves short because they cannot see what everyone else can see.  But doing right isn’t just speaking up. You have to be willing to do things too. To do something for another, even if it is uncomfortable. To be seen with someone that you might otherwise not choose to be seen with. To give of time or resources, even when you think you can’t afford it. Doing right comes in so many different forms.

I have a long way to go in my ability to do and say the right things. Sometimes, I speak up when I shouldn’t. Or I speak up at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Sometimes, I speak up for my own benefit and not for the benefit of the other. Sometimes, I just can’t figure out how to do right. There is definitely room to grow.

However, the area in which I need to grow the most, is why this quote started this post. I look to others for affirmation that I am doing the right thing. And the problem is, most people don’t know what the right thing is or even more so, how difficult doing the right thing can be. When we do the right thing, there is rarely immediate satisfaction for doing it. Seldom is there a pat on the back or a resolution of the issue. Many times, things feel exactly the same way. Sometimes, it feels worse. We hope that other person will immediately see the error of the ways and thank us for our boldness, love, and clarity. I think this has happened once to me…. maybe….I definitely don’t depend on this outcome.

In my journey of self-awareness, I need to stop focusing on receiving the affirmation for doing right, and focus on the satisfaction of living according to my beliefs and conscience. My growth must occur in my ability to be satisfied with my own actions. Confucius said, “To see the right and not to do it, is cowardice.” I have to be satisfied that I saw what was right, acted accordingly, and did not live cowardly.  Whatever the case of doing right is, whether it is doing something inconvenient, speaking up, defending someone, or going against what everyone else is doing, I have to be satisfied within myself. I have to live according to what I feel it is right. (Note: It is important to seek counsel and to use that to determine what is right. No one should live on an island.)  I cannot do right because of the immediate outcome or to receive the praise or acceptance of others.  Just doing right must be enough.

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