The time is fast approaching when we will be called upon to do what is right rather than what is easy.
Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter
I believe that time has long since passed! Much of our current experience comes from decades of putting the rights of the individual before those of the common good, or their responsibility to society.
While all societies operate from a pre-defined set of norms, we each need to have our own way to determine the rightness of our behaviour. If we genuinely want to feel good about ourselves, then we must also do good in our own eyes and toward others. Right action is that which feels right to the person themselves; which allows them to sleep at night or look back upon their lives and be at peace with the choices they have made and the consequences of those choices. While there will no doubt be exceptions to this, when we’re in touch with who we really are, it would never feel right to act in a manner that would knowingly cause harm to ourselves or for another/s.
In my experience, some of the things that have been most ‘right’ have also been the most difficult to do. They may have asked me to demonstrate courage beyond what I felt I was capable of at the time, to practise compassion by choosing to ‘suffer with’ another, rather than leaving them to deal with their pain on their own. Sometimes, it required delaying gratification, putting off claiming some reward in the present so I could stay focused on the big picture and continue working toward its fulfilment, or to put aside a personal desire for the moment to honour a prior commitment I have made to another person or project.
At other times, right action demands that we practise tough love and impose boundaries which will allow another to come face-to-face with their own behaviour; to desist from rescuing them from the consequences of their choices, especially when their behaviour is destructive or demands change. And for the person themselves, it can mean reaching out for help when it is clear they have exhausted all avenues for solving the problem on their own.
Right action means putting our ego to one side so that kindness can prevail over being right or vindictive, or relinquishing the need to be liked so that we can be effective in doing our job… a big one for those in management positions at work and at home! For parents, right action could be saying “No!” even when we do have the time or money, simply because it’s our job to teach our children the value of money and a job well-done.
Obviously, what may be right action in one instance could be quite different in another. We are continually changing, and the choices we make today could alter the landscape from which we are called upon to act tomorrow. So be alert, be mindful, and check in with yourself before you proceed.
Inner Sense No. 18 | February 2010 – updated June 2019