What’s Right (for You)?

“Oh, that’s not right for you.”

There’s a sentence we’ve all heard along our journey. Some of us, far too many times. The concept of right and wrong is an interesting discussion and a subject that has fascinated me for years. Growing up, we were all taught that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do pretty much everything. To vote. To eat. To exercise. To date. To explore sex. To learn. To earn. To speak. To deal with problems. And even, to get to heaven.

Yep, pretty much everything.

Dealing in Absolutes

As kids, the authority figures in our world (parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, etc.) mostly taught us in terms of absolutes. “This is right, that is wrong”. They didn’t tend to make vague suggestions or tell us to discover our own truth. No, they told us how things work: black and white.

Matter of fact.

Well, their version of fact.

Sometimes, that approach worked in our favour (“don’t touch the hot stove”) and, sometimes, not so much (“you should never leave anything on your plate”).

The Enormity of Conformity

The problem with ‘their right’ becoming ‘our right’ is that, like you and me, our educators were flawed. And ignorant. And, at times, amazing and fabulous. Of course, they didn’t know it all. None of us do. As well as their experience, strength, wisdom and insight, they also brought their issues, insecurities, fears, ego and bias into every conversation, every lesson and every encounter. Sadly, there have been many times when most of us have felt obligated to embrace, accept or align with someone else’s version of ‘right’ in order to keep the peace, to maintain a relationship and to appear loyal and committed. Even when deep down we felt something of an inner conflict and a sense that maybe their right is our wrong.

So we compromised. We ignored our inner wisdom. We pretended.

Inner Wisdom

I believe that, for most of us, it is our inner wisdom – the knowledge, insight and understanding that lives in the realm beyond intellect, reason and experience – that often tells us what is right for us. That still small voice. Having said that, it’s also my experience that the right thing for us as individuals is not always the logical thing. The popular thing. The comfortable thing. The easy thing. Or the thing we’re most familiar with.

The truth is that there are very few universally accepted ‘rights’. What might appear to be right in one situation (offering a stranger a lift, for example), will be wrong in another. What will work for John (a certain diet perhaps), will be catastrophic for Tom. What will make Sally calm and relaxed (a massage, for example) will make Sue uncomfortable and anxious.

Extremes

Even when it comes to religious, moral, ethical and highly-emotive issues such as (say) murder, is it possible to categorically say that killing another person is never ever right? If a person is physically trying to kill someone I love right there in front of me (perish the thought), I could concede that, in an extreme and highly-unlikely situation, even killing (in self-defence) might be the right thing.

For me.

Then and Now

Perhaps right or wrong is dependant on the individual, the situation and the circumstance. Perhaps it comes down to what stage of our journey we’re at. Maybe what was right for us in 1995 is totally wrong for us today (think hair, clothes, friends, career, partner). As we change, learn, grow, experience and mature, is it possible that our values, priorities, standards, rules and attitudes change and, in the process, so does (what is) right and wrong for us as individuals?

Absolutely.

Could it be that when I try to impose my version of ‘right’ on someone else – even with my good intentions – I’m possibly manipulating and influencing them to their own detriment and simultaneously trying to turn them into a version of me?

Yep.

In reality, there’s little chance that my right will always be yours.

Individuality

I have friends who regularly borrow massive amounts of money to finance certain projects and purchases. They love it. It excites them, motivates them and keeps them focused and productive. Financially speaking, it’s right for them. For me, it would be totally wrong. The idea of massive debt, huge financial risk and putting myself in that kind of situation has zero appeal to me. In fact, it would probably make me anxious. Having said that, neither perspective is universally right or wrong because it’s not actually about the situation (taking on that level of financial risk) but, rather, it’s about what it represents to the various individuals in the middle of it all.

Them.
Me.

Some of us have been so committed to certain versions of ‘right’ (we could also call them non-negotiable beliefs, standards, behaviours and rules) for so long that it terrifies us to consider the idea that, maybe, what we have held on to for so long (emotionally and psychologically) might be either (1) totally wrong or (2) not the ‘most’ right thing for us.

So to speak.

So, have you had a re-evaluation of your version of ‘right and wrong’ – in relation to certain aspects of your life – over the years? Had you ever done a one-eighty on a particular issue or belief? And, has your need to be right ever created problems? As you consider this insight, keep in mind that the ‘right’ of which I speak to here is not a global thing but rather a you thing. It’s all about your life. Your body. Your relationships. Your choices. Your standards. Your values. Your beliefs. Your choices.

You.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan June 18, 2014 at 9:43 am

I think we need places where it is safe to fail, so we get to try out stuff and find what fits for us.

As to absolutes. They can probably be done with principles rather than rules about actions or situations. Eg. minimise violence and maximise compassion, would work in any situation I could think of. It could embrace using violence to prevent more for instance.

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Gina June 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

as I sit here on the train quietly allowing the world to rush past…WHAM!… I get hit with these pearls of wisdom! Being on the ‘other’ side of 50, of course i have revisited my stance on various things – like clothes and music and dealing with kids who have somehow turned into young adults……but had it ever occurred to me to reconsider my moral stance on things now that I am older and arguably wiser? Sort of, but not really. Thanks Mr Harper….thought provoking as always

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Kelly June 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Awesome! Going through a change of perspective on a major issue right now. This is a particularly useful article to ponder. thanks Craig.

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Shan June 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I love this Craig.. x

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Silver Princess June 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm

As a child, my eyes were trained to see the world in black and white.
As a teenager I began to see grey.
Now, at midlife, I see colour.
Thanks Craig for your intuitive message!
:o )

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ecmcspline June 19, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Once again the Craiganator has returned to save us from that scary word “Conformity”, Woo Hoo

Thanks Craig :-)

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David June 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Craig, as usual you hit the proverbial nail on the head – so to speak. Many could learn from this and improve their life journey. Keep up your fabulous work.

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Anonymous June 19, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Hi Craig

Some “rules” are harder to break than others. For example, I don’t think I could ever get out of the habit of saying “thank you” to people – and I wouldn’t want to.

I agree with Evan’s comment, both about needing a safe place to fail, and about absolutes.

For me, I don’t think it would ever be right to kill someone. Though I once thought about whether it would be better for someone to die a slow death in pain or to be killed quickly and painlessly, with regards to my grandfather (who I love). The thought made me feel very guilty.

I know my conscience has plasticity. So it can be rigid and principled (if I let it), or it can be unprincipled and barely register as important (if I let it). Whereabouts on the continuum it comes is a matter of habituation and environment I think. Great spiritual leaders must have found a way of coping with a different way of looking at the world from the people who surrounded them.

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Erin Parenzee June 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I absolutely loved this post. It was as if you were talking directly to me. I have aspirations of motivating, developing, inspiring my peers, strangers, anyone willing to listen. I am venturing into a motivational type blog real soon, and will be keenly reading what you have to offer. Lastly thanks for the hard work you you are putting in, it really shows in all the content you have available. Keep the Passsion!!

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Vin June 20, 2014 at 9:20 am

Great post buddy.

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Ronald June 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Wise words, thank you.
I’m in the middle of a complete review, and while some questions have pretty clear answers — if I really listen within, and that doesn’t mean they are easy to implement — some pose real challenges.
Keeps life interesting!

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