Do the Right Thing
Dr. Nash said to me for no particular reason, "Every morning I pray for one thing."
"What is that?" I asked.
"Courage," he said. "I pray for courage to do the next right thing in the eyes of God."
This brought to mind the most frequent advice I have when discussing truly difficult issues with friends and loved ones. It is a slightly distilled version of the above: "Do the right thing."
Where did I first hear this? I cannot remember. It may have been a piece of sage advice from a book that went on to detail all the ways in which this statement can impact your life. That's possible, but unlikely. I think I probably picked this phrase up from Spike Lee's 1989 movie of the same name. Although I didn't actually see the movie until years later, I suspect I stowed it away in my subconscious somewhere and then spent the last 20 years or so chewing on it, probing it, looking for a flaw in its reasoning. I have yet to find one.
Do the right thing. It sounds so simple, yet it is anything but simple.
This advice can completely redirect our lives if we are open to its possibilities. I believe that deep down, if we allow ourselves to be still and listen, we usually know what the 'right thing' is regardless of the situation. Isn't that what New Year's resolutions are mostly about, pledging to do the right thing more often?
- Eat less
- Exercise more
- Spend more time with our families
- Be a better partner/spouse
- Be more present with God
- Watch less television
- Have more patience
We all know that these things will enhance our lives, that they are the right thing to do.
What about the big decisions, those that can alter one's life irreversibly? I believe we have the opportunity when faced with temptation or difficult choices to simply hear God say 'Do the right thing.' If we listen, the choice is usually clear. If the choice is not clear (and we have truly listened), then perhaps there is no 'right thing'. In these instances, there is probably no 'wrong thing' either. We weigh our choices as best we can and once we are at peace with our decision, we move on.
Most of the time, simply asking ourselves to do the right thing will yield a clear path. The hard part is remembering to ask ourselves every day to do the right thing. I believe that if I can find the will to even ask this question daily, I will stay focused on the important things. I will make the choices that lead to a life of which I can be proud. I will do all of those things listed above that will result in me being healthier and developing deeper, more rewarding relationships. It sounds so simple, yet it can be so difficult.
Do the right thing.
Matthew Ellis serves as executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries.