The Right Thing To Do

A Point of View

I read an interesting article this morning in the Epoch Times written by George A. Rivera. This particular essay was from a column devoted to the next generation. In other words, advice from those of us who are little long in the tooth to the up- and -comers.

In this article, he discusses doing what’s right simply because it’s the right thing to do. “Of course,” you may think. “Isn’t that a no-brainer?”

When the question was posed to his granddaughter, she had other ideas. These included to avoid getting in trouble, to get a reward, and to please others. 

Although these are all bona fide reasons to do what’s right, he reminded her that the only reason to do the right thing is because it’s the right thing to do.

 The other reasons are born of external motivations. Isn’t this, many times, the reason we do the things we do, and is there anything wrong with this?

Our Motivations

 In my mind, absolutely not. How many of my students would have studied for my Civics test if they knew it wouldn’t be graded? How many of us would go to work each day without the extrinsic motivation of a paycheck? So, getting a reward is an understandable reason to do what’s right.

What about not getting in trouble? That’s a valid reason. After all, only masochists intentionally cause themselves pain. Oh, and of course, teenagers, who use those years to experiment with risky behaviors, only partly because the human brain doesn’t totally develop until the age of twenty-five. Until that age, thinking ahead to the consequences of one’s actions may be considered only briefly, or not at all. Insurance companies who insure young drivers know this.

Doing what’s right to please others can be linked to getting a reward. There’s nothing wrong with this. 

But doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do…ah, that falls into another category. This is what we all aim for. 

A Moral Dilemma

I remember when one of my students found some money on the school grounds. He was thinking about pocketing the money. This turned into a class discussion. 

“But nobody is claiming it. We don’t know who it belongs to,” he reasoned.

“Yes, “ I responded. “You don’t know who it belongs to, but you know who it doesn’t belong to.”

End of discussion. Taking the money to the front office was doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. But this higher ordered thinking sometimes takes being exposed to advice from someone with more exposure to life than you. 

It’s the gift you give to the up- and- comers.