Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy

I know it’s sometimes hard to do the right thing. It gets complicated by many different circumstances, such as our own self interest, fears that may be triggered and our definition of what makes something “right.”

To people who operate purely from self-interest, the right thing to do is whatever is best for them at the time (narcissists).

To people who are afraid, the right thing is whatever ends the source of their fear (living with an abuser).

To others, a right action may only be right for some people, but harmful to others (waging war).

There are probably as many different versions of what is right as there are people. And rightness can be a moving target.

To me it’s very simple; the right thing means taking responsibility for my own actions and doing what’s best for all people affected. If I cause an accident or damage another person’s property, I consider it to be my fault and I must make it right for the people who were affected. In business, if I mess up on an order or shipment, I make it right.

I make it right because it’s the fair and right thing do to.

I know how it feels to be on the other side, like when I found out someone broke one of my glasses but didn’t tell me. Or when someone I knew stole a favored Christmas ornament.

Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.

That’s the motto I strive to live by.

Unfortunately, and sadly, there are many people who do not share my beliefs about doing the right thing. For instance, my 92 year-old mom recently fell outside, in the dark pouring rain, walking across her neighbors yard to get to her mailbox, wearing flimsy, cheap backless slippers on wet grass and mud, causing her to slip (either on the wet grass, the mud or the water drainage cover) and land on her face and shoulder, but continuing to slide until she hit the Arborvitae bush. She broke a rib, her arm and nose and had a gash in her forehead that required nine stitches. And because her knees were bad, she was unable to get up and lay there in the rain, bleeding for about thirty minutes, until miraculously, a neighbor heard her cries and rescued her.

Initially, her story about what happened was to blame the cheap slippers that caused her to lose her balance and fall, and she acknowledged that the path she took to the mailbox in the rainy darkness was not a wise decision either. But as word spread about her accident, people started telling her to take pictures of the wounds and to contact a lawyer and insurance.

Her story about what happened changed, absolving her of all blame, and shifting it instead to the, “stupid neighbor” — the same neighbor that rescued her — “who planted a flower bed” in their own yard  (the shortcut to the mailbox) that she had to step over. Next she blame the company who installed the water drainage cover, then concluded with the mobile park landowner, who immediately said they would pay her $5000 once she filled out the forms.

To me, blaming those other people and wanting to profit from her carelessness — this was the sixth fall that I am aware of in the past eight years; she has always been accident prone — is not the right thing to do. Plus, it will cost her only $4 for her antibiotic prescription and nothing else because she has very good insurance coverage.

I made my feelings known, and when it was clear that we did not share the same meaning of doing the right thing, I backed off.

Then she told me not to tell anyone about the slippers or her history of accidents and falling, to protect her secret, just like she did frequently when I was a young child. She would do something behind my father’s back, then tell me what she did and tell me not to say anything to my dad.

Are you kidding? Don’t tell Dad? Of course I won’t tell Dad because if I did he would immediately confront you, and you would know it came from me, and then I would get punished by you. I learned very quickly and early on to keep my mouth shut.

Once I left home, I never allowed her to put me in that situation again, until now, nearly six decades later.

As I drove home I thought about what had transpired, and knew I would not lie for her. I do not agree with her wanting others to pay for her carelessness, but it’s not my choice to make.

So the right thing for me is to step out of it totally; she will do what she wants to do. It’s always been that way, and it is her life to live. She will be the one to pay the price of reconciling her actions.

What goes around comes around.

She is who she is, and at this late stage of her life, it’s unlikely she will change. So, once again, I am being given an opportunity to separate the behavior of the woman from the child who was never loved, and love her despite her actions.

It’s the right thing to do.

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