Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Why Do We Do the Right Thing?
Today, after an awesome day of going around town and doing various things to celebrate my mom's b-day, something unexpected happened. As I was preparing my kids for bed, I noticed a tiny plastic frog on the floor. I picked it up and recognize it to be one of the toys they played with at a museum we went to earlier. It turned out that it was a team effort and both of my oldest kids were guilty of this deed. After having a long talk and lecturing my kids on how wrong it is to steal things and what happens to people when they steal things came the verdict for their inexcusable behavior. They are to write a note of apology to the museum staff, return the toy to the play room and personally apologize to the staff member for their wrong doing. After they felt asleep, I was left in my office to think about this incident and doing the right thing. I started questioning why do people choose to do the RIGHT thing? I think that there is a lot of attention being paid to why people do the wrong thing but I am yet to engage in a conversation of what makes people do the right thing.
Today, when you took your groceries through the u-scan register, why did you pay for all of your items? Early next year, why will you report accurately on your taxes even if that means having to pay back the money you don't currently have? Is it because of the fear of the consequence that could follow if you get caught doing the wrong thing ? Are you terrified of jail or of what prison time can do to your criminal record?
If you believe in life after death, did you do the right thing because you are afraid of going to hell to spend your eternity?
Yes, prison and hell scare the heck out of me and rightly so. Without law enforcement there would be no order. Because of law enforcement, we slow down on the freeway and obey other laws even if we don't like them. We do the right thing and we get honored for it by not having to pay a fine: the reward which most of us only begin to appreciate after having to pay for our inattentiveness. Without hell, sneaky people that were able to allude justice on Earth would never have to pay for their crime.
My question to you my readers is this: Are human beings able to do the right thing purely because it is the right thing and serves fellow humans well and not because of the fear of consequences? If by some magic powers your were advised that you can engage in any act of immorality under the sun and would never have to pay for it in any way, would you do it? Would others do it?
I don't know if I my kids understood my point tonight. I wanted them to understand that even though they didn't get caught, they took something that doesn't belong to them. They took something that wasn't earned by them or their parents and that is a crime against humanity no matter how small of a damage was done.
Most importantely, I want them to grow up understanding that what makes people noble is not the acts of righteousness that they commit in view of people watching, but it is those acts that might be never discovered. This is a whole other topic I would like to someday think through.
Doing the right thing is not glamorous and is often inconvenient. Human beings gravitate toward whats evil and we fight this battle daily. Sometimes we come out winners. Other times, unfortunately victory is forced upon us.
~~Would love to hear your thoughts on this...