Doing the right thing, no matter what.
I’m glad I’m not a politician. Especially this year, when political candidates for President are applying the well-worn principle of “plausible deniability”. If you’re caught doing something wrong or make a misstep--- try to wriggle out of it and hope for the best. Most average Americans see right through this nonsense. What’s wrong with admitting you made a mistake? What’s right about acknowledging when you’re wrong?
Joe felt justified in raising his voice when his wife criticized his lack of follow through. Her volume was going up—she was mad at him. He felt that she was always critical of him. Didn’t she realize how hard he was working?
Mary was annoyed with her husband for misplacing some important papers. She stormed into the living room and let him have it. She was boiling. Why couldn’t he be more organized?
A few years ago, several of my staff were laughing and talking loudly in the hallway. They had done this before and I hadn’t said anything. I was fed up. I walked over and sternly told them in a loud voice to keep it down. I was mad!
Joe, Mary and I felt completely justified in raising our voice and expressing our ire. After all, hadn’t we been provoked? Didn’t we have the right to be angry and raise our voice?
The short answer—No.
To most of us, this seems counter-intuitive. We believe that one bad turn excuse’s another. If someone is unfair to us, it gives us the right to respond in kind—an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If someone aggravates us, they don’t deserve kindness or patience. Or do they?
As parents, we spend an entire childhood teaching our kids to do the right thing, no matter what. “Don’t hit someone who needles you—tell the teacher. Use you inside voice, even when you’re mad. Apologize for doing something wrong. Admit when you’ve made a mistake or been dishonest. If you tell a lie, admit it”—it’s a very long to-do list. But shouldn’t we follow our own advice?
Is doing the right thing only for children?
Is there ever a justification to raise one’s voice in anger? Yes—I believe there is. If someone is hurting someone else, we have a responsibility to firmly intervene. But isn’t it better to do so in a calm, compassionate manner?
Below are a few thoughts about doing the right thing:
- Take the high road. Trust me, this isn’t always easy when we feel offended! We have to be aware of ourselves before we act. And then we have to choose how we want to behave. Ask yourself—what values and beliefs do I want my actions to embody?
- Respond instead of react. Our initial reactions are often emotional and come from our gut. It’s better to consider—how do I want to respond to what’s happening? What message do I want to send? How do I want to be? It’s often more productive to discuss a concern when you’re no longer fuming. But after your fire is gone, make sure not to sweep it under the rug.
- Be the person you want others to be. This is especially important as a parent. Your children will imitate your actions—not your words. Walk the talk and your children will do as you do.
- Apologize. After I raised my voice with my staff, I went over later and apologized for my behavior. My expression of anger was wrong. That was not how I wanted to conduct myself.
- Be quick to forgive. My 97-year old friend, Dixie, says it best. “Take no offense. But if you do, be quick to forgive”.