What’s Right or What’s Left?

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In life, we make many moral decisions. Moral decisions come in lots of sizes, from small to life-altering. No matter the size of the decision, each one is important because every decision we make creates a building block in our character. Usually with a moral decision, there is a right decision that can be made. If we don’t make the right decision, we settle for one of the decisions that are left. 

For example, you are at work and someone keeps hitting on you. You’re married and you know you should not hook-up with another person. Do you make the right decision and tell the person “No,” or do you make one of the other decisions that are left? The first decision that is left is to hook-up and be unfaithful to your partner. That decision leads to other decisions…tell your spouse the truth or lie to him or her.  Most of the decisions that are left will have negative consequences when we don’t choose the right decision in the first place. 

Most of us do not have to make life-altering moral decisions every day but we will be making moral decisions as we walk through our day. Do we steal something small from our employer? Do we cheat on our taxes? Do we use someone else’s work and claim it as our own? Each of these questions will have a right decision that can be made. If we don’t make the right decision we again are stuck with the decisions that are left. One of the by products of the decisions that are left is among other things, living with a guilty conscience. Is living with a guilty conscience worth stealing a stapler from work? Is it worth saving a few dollars in taxes? Is it worth pretending to have created something that was not entirely ours? 

The answer is obviously “No” to those questions. So as we go through our day, let’s consider our decisions. Do we want to choose what’s right or settle for what’s left?

First World Problems

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A few weeks ago my son came over to visit. We were talking and he began the next part of the conversation with, “Mom, I know this is a First World problem, but…” He then proceeded to talk about something he was thinking about purchasing. After he left, I thought about what he had said as far as First World problems went.

We know that in the Third World, many people suffer from a lack of basic necessities, i.e., sanitation, potable water, food, shelter, safety,  and access to basic medical care. Most people are just trying to survive in desperate circumstances. When we go to one of these countries, we are shocked by the conditions that people are living in; that’s what characterizes the Third World.

In the First World, the average citizen has most of his basic necessities. There are people without adequate health care and some live in areas where they are concerned about safety, but in general, most of us have our basic needs met. We then deal with First World problems such as: “Which house or car should I buy?” “Which doctor should I go to?” Which job should I take, the one I like or the one that pays more?” We can indeed be stressed when we are in the middle of these decisions, but if we ask ourselves the right question, we can lower our stress level. 

When we are stressing over consumer decisions, it would do us well to change our perspective and ask ourselves what kind of a problem are we dealing with…First World or Third World? If it is a First World problem, let’s take a few moments, breathe and take stock. Usually, we are not facing issues of survivability, we are facing issues of desirability. If that is the case, let’s lower the temperature in the room and get a grip.  Yes, we will have to make a decision but it will be one born of choice not of necessity. That knowledge alone should give us a sense of peace.

What kind of problems are you dealing with today…First World or Third World?

Time Machine Moments 1.0

When you think back on your life, are there those moments when you would like to go back and give your younger self counsel? Would you like to help him or her navigate through circumstances a little bit better? I can think of many times in my life when I could have used good counsel, so whenever I write a post relating to this theme, it will be called Time Machine Moments. I will get in my Time Machine and go back and give my younger self counsel. Perhaps you will be able to relate to some of these moments as we travel back in time.time-2034990_1280photo by The Digital Artist, courtesy of Pixabay

I would take my Time Machine back to my first term in college. It was the summer session in Eugene and all of the male students were in one dorm and the female students were in another dorm. I was walking down the hall and I heard someone crying. The door was open and so I went into her room. She was a young, frightened foreign student from Viet Nam. I didn’t know her name, but could see she obviously was in distress. Her English wasn’t good but she was able to tell me she had gone to the eye doctor and needed glasses. She didn’t have the money to pay for them. I felt bad for her and told her I would see what I could do to help.

I went back to my room and began to think. I was seventeen myself and in a strange town where I didn’t know anyone. I was drawn into her problem by the emotion and felt motivated to do something, but what? I didn’t have much money as my father had placed me on a strict budget. So, I thought I needed to go with her to the eye doctor and ask them if they would consider giving her the glasses at a discount. I didn’t feel like I had any great social standing so I thought that perhaps if I used an important last name they might consider it. I chose the last name Kaiser because of the Kaiser foundation. 

We went to the eye doctor and I introduced myself to the receptionist. I told her the problem and asked if they would consider giving her the glasses at a reduced price. She went in the other room for quite a while and then came back and told us the doctor had approved the discount and the girl could have her glasses. She was ecstatic and I was happy for her. I got no great satisfaction from the experience because I had lied about my name.  At that point, I didn’t feel I should go back to the office and tell them the truth, so I felt that there was nothing to do but live with it.

When would I step in and give my younger self counsel? I would show up when she came back to the dorm room after she encountered the student crying. If her plan was to go to the eye doctor, I would tell her to use her own name. It would be enough. I would tell her, “To thine own self be true,” and quote Polonius. If the eye doctor was going to give the student the glasses, it would make no difference what name she used. The generosity was up to the doctor, and she didn’t need to try to tip the scales by using a false name.

I would also tell her that she had another option. Although her father was out of town a lot, she could wait and get ahold of him. He was very generous and he would probably just say to have the bill sent to him. If she would just step back from the urgency and the emotion of the moment, she could make better choices. I would tell her good-bye and step back into my time machine (Yes, it is a DeLorean!) until the next time she needed my counsel.vehicle-3250015_1280photo by Dtavres, courtesty of Pixabay

As I think about that experience, are there any takeaways for my life today? I think so. Many times I am confronted by the needs of others and lots of those times there is a lot of emotion attached to those needs. I need to disassociate myself from the emotion and look at the situation objectively. Is there anything I can do and am supposed to do? If so, I should do it.

Is the situation beyond my ability to help? I would give myself the same advice I gave her, “Call your Father.” My earthly father has long since passed, but I have a Heavenly Father who is waiting and willing to answer my prayers. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you.” I need to take the situation to my Heavenly Father and ask Him to intervene in the situation and provide the need. I can trust Him to work out the situation and provide what is needed. After all, He is never out of options and He knows the people who can help meet the need.

I also need to remember Polonius’s counsel. “This above all: To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to anyone.” Will Shakespeare had it correct.

Waiting to Get Fired!

I was working at a legal office when one day several Native Americans came in. They wanted to get their tribe reinstated as they had signed a treaty with the federal government decades before terminating their rights. They needed legislation drafted and prepared to take back to Congress in Washington D.C. They offered to have one of their members work at the office to help with the documentation for the legislation. 

I was asked to work with Bob. He was 6′ 3″ and weighed about 275 pounds. He was an imposing figure as he rode up on his motorcycle with his long black curly hair. He looked like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley unless he were on your side. He was very intelligent and had a sense of humor to die for. They assigned us an office to work in.  Bob was supposed to obtain the legal documents, i.e. treaties, etc. and I was supposed to help write the tribal history and insert the legal documentation necessary to support the legislation.

Bob and I worked together for several months. We were about finished with our work and the attorneys were almost ready to take everything back to the Congress in order to introduce the legislation to reinstate the tribe. Everything was going well when some people showed up and wanted to talk to one of the attorneys about the case. 

I was alone in the office when one of the attorneys came in. He looked at me and asked me to draft up several affidavits for the people to sign. He told me what the affidavits were supposed to say. I told him that that wasn’t right and that the affidavits would not be true. He looked at me and said, “Just do it!”angry-man-274175_1280

I was stunned to say the least. I knew the affidavits would not be true and that to draft them up and then witness them would be fraudulent. I thought about it for a few minutes and made a decision. I was not going to draft them up. Period. There were several reasons for this decision: 1. It would be ethically wrong. 2. It would be legally wrong. 3. It would destroy the credibility of the case as the affidavits would obviously be fraudulent. At that point, I was just waiting to get fired. This particular attorney had a bad temper and would brook no insubordination.

So, I did the only thing that made sense at the moment; I got a cup of coffee and started reading a book. After all, no use working on anything else as I was on my last few minutes for the firm. I was well into the first chapter of my book when the lead attorney for the case arrived back at the office. He saw me sitting there idly reading my book and came into the office. “What are you doing?” he asked. I said, “I’m waiting to get fired.” I then explained what had happened. He left the office and talked to the attorney who had given me orders to create the fraudulent affidavits. A while later he came back and said, “You can get back to work,” which I assumed was code for “You’re not fired.”

I took a risk that day. I made a decision that was going to cost me my job. I was pregnant and the firm paid for my health insurance. I lived in a small town and there weren’t a lot of good jobs available. It would be hard to find another one if I had been fired from this job. Because of God’s grace, I did not have to pay a high price for my convictions.

There is always a cost if you follow your convictions. Jesus advised us in Luke 14 to count the cost when making a decision. Sometimes the cost isn’t too high, at other times it is. It is important to take the time to count the cost when making an important decision.

Bottom line for me: having a clear conscience, being able to sleep at night and look myself in the mirror in the morning is worth the cost. What about you? Have you had to pay a high price for your convictions? How did it turn out?