Doing the Right Thing Even When No One is Watching

cs-lewis-integrity

Have you ever noticed how differently a child behaves when there is an authority figure around, such as a parent or teacher? Or how an employee will intently focus and try harder when they know their boss is nearby? Why is this? Why do people need to be supervised? Why can’t we do what’s right, even when no one is watching?

Let’s face it; human beings are creatures of habit. Some of them good, some of them, well, not so good. We develop our habits sometime in childhood and unless we classify them and identify which ones we need to be free of, we remain on “auto-pilot” and just exist. Is this truly living though?

As Ian Newby-Clark, psychologist from the University of Guelph says in his blog on the psychology today website: “You resolve to change your bad habits. You mean it. Sometimes you succeed but often you fail. Why? Not because you’re a bad person. You’re probably not a bad person and, even if you are, that’s not why you’re failing. You’re failing because, simply put, habits are extremely hard to change. They’re hard to change because they’re so ingrained, because they’re so almost-automatic.”

I don’t know about you, but “almost-automatic” does not sound like living to me. Our Creator gave each one of us special abilities that are unique to the individual. How quickly we forget that He is always watching us. Even we are alone, we are not. How quickly we forget about the One who made all. But what about those who do not care who is watching? What about those who ARE their habits?

In my life, I strive to practice spiritual principles in all of my affairs. I try to do the right thing at each and every opportunity, asking myself “What would G-d want me to do?” I must admit, this is not always an easy task and I don’t always remember to ask Him. It is often times quite frustrating, considering I seem to be the only one with a set of principles to follow at times. How else can you explain these scenarios?

  • A couple decides to get married and her parents offer to help out. The offer is accepted. They book a grand wedding hall and give a non-refundable deposit of tens of thousands of dollars to secure the location. The daughter throws a fit after a personality clash and decides to have it somewhere else. The parents lose out on all that money, just trying to provide a memorable experience for their daughter. The daughter shows no remorse and takes no ownership for her actions, playing the victim. Were these not her own parents she harmed?
  • A customer contacts a service-oriented business and they begin a relationship, agreeing to mutual terms. Work is performed and the customer nickel and dimes payment, asking for it to be reduced. The business agrees, trying to build the relationship and giving them the benefit of the doubt. By the 3rd request for this unwarranted discount, the customer now refuses to pay anything at all, ignoring the agreements made at the beginning. The business has extended them credit, performed work and met all their requests to date. The business informs the customer that it is not interested in taking on its work any longer. Does this customer not realize that the only harm being done is to their own soul(s)?
  • A teacher is in need of a part-time assistant in the classroom. The position is posted as a new hire and not offered to anyone internally, even though another current employee has expressed interest. The employee has recently had an illness in the family and has had some scheduling concerns, requesting that his full-time position be reduced to part-time. The principal was irritated by this due to the fact that he, himself, had to fill on one of the days due to this employee’s absence due to the illness and is holding a grudge for his inconvenience. Does this decision maker not have any compassion?
  • A teenager wants a laptop. The parents buy her one and they all agree to certain rules. The teenager decides to not follow them and the laptop use is restricted. The teenager begins sneaking around and using it anyway, staying up late at night and it affects her grades and attitude during the day. So the parents decide to limit internet access instead. The teenager throws a fit and gets very resentful. Then, one day, the laptop is abused and becomes broken and the teenager insists the parents fix it. They take it to the shop and give the teenager the invoice to pay for it and offer to drive and pick it up. The teenager throws a fit; feeling entitled to have the parents pay for it. The teenager quickly realizes that this will not happen and retreats into a resentful isolation in the home. Does this teenager not appreciate her parents?

Do any of these sound familiar? Why is it that some people feel they can do whatever they want without any concern for anyone else? Do we blame this on habits? Or a simple lack of common decency? Perhaps this is due to a convoluted understanding of integrity? Or a simple lack thereof? How can we break these habits?

The solution? Vested interest. The old “give and take” that we are all familiar with. Each party had something different to gain and to lose. The more investment each party has into the relationship the more committed both sides are to seeing it succeed. Some people are givers, some are takers. The key is balance. After all, the ONLY thing I can take with me when I leave this world are my good deeds. I certainly want to make sure there are more good ones than the opposite!

Relationships are like bank accounts. Without making any deposits, you will not have anything to withdraw. See to it that your relationship with G-d is right and remember that He is always watching you. After all, when we harm His creations, He notices and takes account. Eventually, everyone has to answer to Him for their actions. What more reason do you need to do the right thing?

C.S. Lewis has a famous quote that says: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” After all, no one will question your integrity IF your integrity is not questionable! I don’t know about you, but I don’t need anyone watching to want to do the right thing.

Christopher Gould – President

Gould Design, Inc.