To be Kind or to be Right
There’s a phrase I once read that said, “Doing the right thing isn’t always the kind thing, but doing the kind thing is always the right thing”. From the day I read it, it has bothered me and is the reason why I’m writing this post.
You see, I have a bias on this. I spent sixteen years of my life as a Royal Military Policeman in Her Majesty’s Forces, looking at things from an objective point of view – that is, getting the facts and looking at the logic. It is an unemotional approach. That way you are not emotionally biased.
However, this also becomes a method to the way I see things, which doesn’t leave room for many grey areas.
Also, my experiences have been from a perspective where not doing the right thing puts your integrity and honesty into question, those being two traits of character that no-one should give up on and no true friend ought to put you in a situation where you have to compromise that.
On the other hand, doing the kind thing can give us a sense of fulfillment, as well as doing the right thing, even though doing what’s right isn’t always believed to be the kind thing to do.
I’ve thought about this, a lot, assisted with my thoughts by M.Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Travelled”.
Those of you that understand how “coincidences” and serendipity “work”, will also understand when I say that the book came along at the right time, when my own thinking wasn’t getting me anywhere – because of my biases.
Before I go further lets define what kind means.
What is the Kind thing?
When I think of doing something kind, I automatically think of helping that person that is homeless asking for money (I’m not going to go into the giving money or food argument – that’s a personal choice). That is how my brain is wired and the response I get in my mind.
But, through Peck’s book and at home, I’ve come to realise that there also exists a kindness that most of us rarely think about – showing that kindness to our spouse, to our children, to our family.
The conundrum comes up when we start to question what that kindness is and in what form it takes.
Giving money to a family member who we know is an addict, because they are suffering of withdraw symptoms, may help them to get their “fix”, but this is temporary.
A child who wants something in a shop, that was not agreed upon or it’s a sudden outburst, it seems the kind thing to buy that child what they want.
Two examples that can be expanded to older children, spouses and friends. We have all been put into those or similar situations. You, reading this, may have been the one creating that situation.
The way you look at these events and what you think is the kind thing to do, or what should happen, is based on your own experiences and the beliefs you hold in your own subconscious mind. They are beliefs that you have either maintained from childhood and ones you have taken on or replaced with your childhood beliefs, because they no longer matched your ideal.
That is why we all react and respond differently to situations and judge others on the way they do something. We see things differently – literally.
At the same time, what we consider the kind thing isn’t always the best thing to do. Helping an addict because we feel sorry for them only helps the addict for a short period of time.
A child’s outburst could be the result of the same parents not having made boundaries with the child or instilled a sense of discipline or manners in them – and a child reflects the parents.
You have to remember that parents act as a guiding principle for a child and the parent that the child grabs onto most, is the one they will copy. Most children will go for the easiest option and if the parent starts to get lazy, so will the child.
The old wife’s tale, “Like father, like son” is something to remember. Have you also noticed how some pet owners look like their pets? Coincidence? Or how daughters copy their mothers, particularly in dress when they are small?
The ideal show of kindness, is giving as charity. It’s not always money. We give food, clothing, furniture to those who need it more than we do. And we expect nothing back – that is, we shouldn’t expect anything back. We give because we want to.
This includes giving to the homeless, the person that buys that thing for a child who’s parents truly cannot afford it, listening to the child that has something to say, even if it’s something that could prove us to be wrong.
It’s not saying something, when we want to say something, about that thing we didn’t like.
But, kindness can also be the wrong thing to do when it’s because we don’t want to confront another person about what they are asking, out of fear of the possible outcome. Not giving the money to the addict, not buying a child something, not going to that event with your spouse that you really don’t want to go to.
That fear of saying what needs to be said can lead us to make poor choices.
What is the Right thing
Doing the right thing always takes courage to do what should and ought to be done. It doesn’t mean that the fear doesn’t exist. It means acting regardless of the fear. This is why most people never follow their dreams – the fear is too great.
Doing what’s right isn’t always the popular thing to do, such as getting the addict in a clinic to help them get off their addiction, telling the child “No”, speaking to your spouse about the event you’re not going to.
Peck talks about the two ways that decisions are made. The first is the immediate reaction, that comes from our ego, which he calls arrogance. We let our ego get the better of us because we don’t want to be wrong (so many emotions and fears in this).
The other is what a friend calls, “due diligence” – looking at both sides of the argument in an objective way. You ask yourself, “Am I right here?” and “Am I saying this because I want to be right?”. Peck calls this “humility”, involving “self-doubt” and “self-examination”.
The reason most of us react from our old beliefs is because we are not willing to confront ourselves about whether we are right in our action or not.
But, once we do it, we also benefit. We step into a world where we are willing to question ourselves and our actions, giving us a better insight into ourselves. Not too much questioning though – you don’t want to go down the path of doubting every action you are going to take (a good excuse for procrastinators).
So what is the right thing?
It’s an action that benefits the other person for their betterment, in an objective manner, feelings and emotions aside.
There was a question on a social channel about a father, a businessman, who had quit his job due to stress and whether it was not his responsibility to maintain their children lifestyle – the answer is no, it’s not. A parents responsibility is to care for their children. I’m not talking just about the clothes and food, but the emotional needs as well, something that some people forget about. That father made a choice for his own health. Downgraded a lifestyle revolving around money for one revolving around a better life. A tough decision that needed courage to make.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing to do and can leave us feeling emotionally drained, even though it is an objective process.
But, if we follow Peck’s advise, asking ourselves if what we are doing is the right thing and why, then we are more likely to make the right decision, rather than making a decision from a reaction.
It ain’t easy and it’s not meant to be.
So… Kind or Right
We do the things we do because we believe them to be the right thing to do. Including being kind.
When we do something kind, like giving, we do it because we believe it’s the right thing to do. The outcome is a feeling of peace and a sense of joy.
Doing the right thing doesn’t always bring us joy. There are times however that it’s something that we need to do for someone else’s benefit.
Which leads me to this – if it’s for someone else’s benefit, provided that we are not doing it to prove ourselves right because our ego needs it, then it must be more than just something right. It’s no longer an act without emotion, objective, but it has become subjective, an act with emotion.
That emotion may not be joy, but it is an emotion with consideration for the other person.
Doing the kind thing needs us to be subjective – we have to look at the situation with emotion and feeling.
Kindness, then, is doing the right thing with feeling and emotion.
If we take away all the created laws that we have to obey and follow, mostly created for our benefit to protect us, what is left is a free will to decide what is right or wrong, kind or unkind.
I know that what I have written here is based on my experiences and the beliefs I currently hold. Whether I am wrong or right is for you, the reader, and time to determine. It’s like my choice of picture to put for this post – two hands stretched out, holding a flower; because in my imagination I saw just that and it had to be a flower. It’s what feels right.
I follow my intuition, mostly, but, every now and then, I must catch myself and question my motives for what I am about to do (like buying an object that I am never going to use). I remember Zig Ziglar’s questions:
- Is it going to take me closer or further from where I want to be?
- Is it fair on everybody involved?”
Now I can add two more
- Am I right here?
- Or is it my ego?”
At the end of the day, the ultimate kindness we can do is giving time to someone that needs to talk, someone that needs to be listened to. You see, it’s also the right thing to do. It’s called being human. And we are all in that category of existence.
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.