Do the right thing.
We hear it almost every day, and I love the reminder. Do I always do the right thing? No. I will admit it…straight up. I don’t.
And neither do you.
Today, I was browsing through Facebook, and on a friend’s post, someone wrote, “You always do the right thing.” Now, don’t get me wrong. This friend of mine does the right thing almost all the time. She is a wonderful person with a giving heart, no doubt. However, she posted recently that a woman on the beach had told her she was beachcombing incorrectly and accused her of being rude. This woman told her you should never start beachcombing in front of another beachcomber. What? I had never heard that, and neither had my friend, but the woman clearly thought my friend was doing the wrong thing. Sometimes, the right/wrong thing is in the eye of the beholder.
Many times, I’m behind cars who are cruising in the left lane of a highway. I think they are rude and choosing to do the wrong thing, but they probably have no idea the left lane is for passing.
No one always does the right thing, and that’s partly due to the fact that, as humans, we are inherently flawed. Does it mean we always do the wrong thing? No, but sometimes we do the wrong thing. As I’ve gotten older, one thing I’ve learned is that it is impossible to always do the right thing. It is possible to try, but no matter what, “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (John Lydgate) Sometimes, making one person happy makes another person sad. Maybe two friends want to make plans with you for the same day. One is going to be, at best, disappointed when you can’t get together…or maybe furious…depending on the person.
And sometimes, we do the wrong thing without even realizing it. Maybe your in-laws feel slighted because you spend more time with your family than with them…they think you are doing the wrong thing. Maybe you don’t know the left lane is for passing. Perhaps you think it’s OK to beachcomb in front of another beachcomber…or maybe you’re the person who is rudely explains the “rules” to the other beachcomber. Maybe you sign up to be on a committee but forget the meetings or always find you have something “more important” on the calendar when the meeting rolls around. Maybe you forget to meet a friend or family member somewhere. Perhaps you exclude someone you should have included. Maybe you were quick to anger. Maybe you didn’t attend a friend’s 50th birthday party. Maybe you got caught up in a conversation you should have walked away from. Maybe you didn’t defend your friend when someone was talking about her. Maybe you tried to do the right thing and it went awry. Maybe a wrong was perceived by someone that you didn’t perceive as a wrong. Maybe you found yourself in a situation and just didn’t know how to handle it, so you didn’t handle it at all.
There are so many ways to do the wrong thing…intentionally or unintentionally. Life is complicated. And remember…everyone has different sensitivity levels, making it even more difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong. If someone tells me I shouldn’t comb the beach in front of another beachcomber, I’m thinking that person is completely and utterly nuts, but she’s thinking I’m rude. If someone calls me at the last minute to cancel lunch plans, I don’t freak out…I’m a low-maintenance friend; but to some folks, that’s a big deal.
But do most folks try to do the right thing? Yes, I like to believe so. I try to do the right thing, and often, I fail. That’s life. The only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything.
Here’s the thing: Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. That’s a funny way of saying sometimes we are the offender, and sometimes we are the “victim.” Personally, I don’t like to be either one.
You’ve likely heard this: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And you know what? We all live in glass houses. As much as someone might like to think they’re perfect, they’re not.
Everyone makes mistakes, and no one always does the right thing. I’m usually quick to warn folks I am going to anger them at some point…I will likely say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. People get mad, and when I’ve done something wrong, I totally understand why someone gets mad about it. But sometimes, our perceptions are different…maybe you think I did the wrong thing, but I disagree. That’s life too.
Over lunch with my friend, Jennifer, we discussed this recently. We acknowledged that everyone is flawed. But you know what we decided? We decided real friends know our flaws and love us anyway.
Try to do the right thing.