Have you ever lost your wallet? Do you remember that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach at the moment you realized it was gone? You retraced your steps and then contacted the store manager, who told you that it had just been turned in to the lost and found. Your faith in humanity had been instantly restored! The anonymous shopper who recovered your wallet clearly did the right thing.
People of integrity do the right thing in pretty much every circumstance, even when no one is looking. Or maybe especially when no one is looking. In our social-media-driven world, we sometimes process thoughts and images differently. We think about what things will look like on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok, and that’s fine but it’s not everything.
Which leads me to wonder what makes people do the wrong thing. Do they think they’ll get away with keeping the wallet? Do they think they won’t get caught stealing a box off someone’s front porch? Maybe they don’t believe in karma. Or maybe they simply don’t care about the consequences? Pretty much every day on my Next Door app, I read warnings from and to our neighbors about scams, and I wonder why those potential thieves choose the path of doing the wrong thing. Imagine if they used that time and energy to feed hungry children!
My personal definition of doing the right thing starts out with self-respect. Ideally, my action or inaction as to any given situation provides me with a map of the high road, and my destination is self-satisfaction. I set my own standards, and 99% of the time, I live within those standards. Also 99% of the time, I don’t judge the standards of others. Instead, I choose to look at the way my own actions make me feel. If what I’m doing doesn’t make me feel good, it’s time to reconsider.
It’s important to understand that we all have the ability, and the opportunity, to set our own standards. And what that means is we should avoid judging the standards of others. (Except for thieves and scammers. I absolutely do judge them, and I give you permission to do the same.) Whether you obtain self-satisfaction by donating your gently used clothing to a women’s shelter, or by writing a big fat check for cancer research, or whether you volunteer your time (as I do) to a cause that’s close to your own heart, or whether you check in periodically on your elderly neighbor, your actions fall under the category of doing the right thing. And if you’re sincere in your belief that doing the right thing is what matters, and not the glory or appreciation you may receive in return, then you’re traveling on the high road.
If you happen to see me along the way, please smile and wave. And I’ll do the same.