The Right Thing


The media is full of people being called out for getting it wrong - and I'm not talking about the criminals - they're ordinary people making decisions that someone else disagrees with.. This happens everywhere we turn, social media, news networks, sports commentary and entertainment shows... they all have something to say about a decision someone made.

All of this public disapproval has rubbed off on us. Friends and neighbors think they have a moral obligation to warn and shame each other into making the right decision. At school our children are concerned about fitting in and getting the right answer. In conversations online, around the water cooler or at the playgroup many of us listen but don't speak our minds for fear of saying the wrong thing.

The penalty for not getting it right can be steep. Social shunning, bullying, becoming the source of local gossip, losing a job, losing customers, or even physical violence against you or your family. But the major rub seems to be knowing what the "right thing" is... and that can keep a person up nights.

The anxiety and stress of trying to do life right can be debilitating.

As someone who seems compelled to speak my mind and truth as I see it, I've found myself in the middle of a nasty mess more than once... For most of us caught in these disagreements, who is right and who is wrong is a matter of perspective and not moral deliberation. Because let's face it - most of us aren't criminals or morally bankrupt... We're all doing the best we know how... But for good or bad, the effects of social shaming have taken their toll... We find ourselves so concerned about making the right decision, saying the right thing, and avoiding becoming the subject of public ire that we're unable to move in any direction...

More than ever before people seem to think it's ok to point out your mistakes, shortcomings, and bad choices... but who decides what's right?

The scriptures tells us not to judge... I know, some of you are going to point out that it actually says don't judge unrighteously... but I'll counter with the scriptures that tell us that only the Lord can know our heart... and suggest that due to our lack of skill in that department we are unqualified to stand in judgement of one another.

I attended a non-denominational church service last Sunday and quite enjoyed myself. It  was a lot like sunday school in my own congregation. The text being discussed was 1 Peter 4. One comment captured my attention - that if we are doing our best, it doesn't actually matter if we get it right, that The Lord knows our hearts. He doesn't actually expect perfection - that's why we've been provided with a Savior.

This idea actually brought a lot of peace... it's not a new concept but a reminder - that's why we go to church right? I've been very worried lately about appearances and "doing it right." I often forget that the only judgement I need to be concerned with comes from my Lord and Savior. If I'm good with him, it's all good... right? We can tear ourselves up inside worrying about what others think, and I've been there - waffling back and forth, paralyzed by perfection, unable to choose a path for fear of being called out in the court of public opinion.

At 4 am my eyes popped open and this thought shot through me... "it's not hard to do the right thing" - the right thing, the things that actually matter are easy to do... helping a friend in need, comforting those who morn, providing a service only we can give - we don't even have to think to do the right thing, our very nature leads us...

The decisions that seem so hard, are just choices along the path of life - if they don't work out, we try something else. They aren't right or wrong, they just are. We need to make the best decision we can with the information we have, and let go of the judgement. But the right things, those are the things that matter, and if we listen to our hearts it will always lead the way. This hymn comes to mind:

Have I Done Any Good?

Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone's burden been lighter today Because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?

Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love.

There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try," But go and do something today. 'Tis noble of man to work and to give, Love's labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known.

Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love.

These are the things we will ultimately be judged on, our good deeds, the service we rendered, the aid we gave. Where I live, what I feed my kids, how I make a living, what curriculum I use, what clothes I wear, or if I color my hair purple are just choices, not moral judgements. And if we can give grace, and receive grace we'll all get more sleep, and have less stress... but it starts in our own hearts. When we let go of the judgements we make toward others AND ourselves we can find the peace we're looking for.