I’m borrowing the 5th commandment I’m sharing with you here from Gretchen. Gretchen Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ has this as one of her commandments and the wording is just right though my definition may have a different spin.
Do What Ought to be Done.
Character. The past year or so I’ve had quite a few reasons to really dwell on the topic of character. By that I mean, I have had some revealing moments where my character and that of others have been highlighted. Two specific events come to mind when I think about character and they have something in common. When I relayed the stories to my Mom, in both situations she said she would have handled it differently. This may sound negative or lead you to believe that she thought I handled the situation poorly but that’s not what this post is about. Instead, she questioned how and why I had handled them the way I did because she admitted she couldn’t have handled them quite like me.
The first situation that comes to mind happened years ago while I was still a college student. I remember vividly explaining to my Mom in the aftermath that I made the decision ‘I could live with’. Bold and confident though I may seem I am someone who questions myself. I play scenes over and over in mind. I remember verbatim conversations I’ve had and sometimes work through over and over how I would have articulated them differently after further thought. In this situation which involved standing up to a professor in one of my classes who was verbally abusing a student in front of our class – I made the only decision I could have made without regret..I took a stand. As politely as I could muster with a man to whom I had almost no respect, I stood up to him and I defended my classmate.
I am a woman of firm convictions. Among those convictions is the belief that no person should be belittled for their opinions. I believe that no person should be called ‘stupid’. I believe with all my heart that we all have much to learn and that no person should be brow beaten for trying to grow in knowledge.
It was a costly decision. I paid the price for that decision as that professor would not budge in his choice to penalize my grade for my stance. I wish now I had kept that semesters grade report and posted it to my refrigerator because it would be a perfect reminder of this 5th commandment – do what ought to be done. I received the worst grade of my college career for that decision and I have never regretted it. Not for one minute of the past 6 years.
Flash forward to 2014 and I found myself again at a crossroads of character. I attribute much of my ability to handle this second scenario as I did to my parents, who taught me well even in the moments I’m sure they believed I wasn’t paying attention. I’m not going to share the scenario but suffice to say that I was put in a difficult, hurtful situation. I could have reacted in any one of 100 ways. I’ve questioned my reaction many times since but I feel grateful for this – I have not regretted it. When my Mom drilled me about my reaction and how I handled things I remember saying ‘I am not responsible for other people and their behaviors but I am responsible for my own. I did what I had to do to be the kind of woman I want to be’.
Many times since I have wished the outcome of that situation had been different. I have thought about the other people involved and their decisions. But I’m grateful for the protection of having reacted with my character in mind. I was the woman I want to be. If our character is who we are under the most pressure – then this was one of those defining moments. It was my chance to kick a field goal with the game on the line.
And so the 5th commandment was born – do what ought to be done. Not what’s easiest. Not what’s fair. Without consideration for the poor or good behaviors or intentions of others. Just simply: do what ought to be done. When it it’s costly, when it matters most, and even if no one else does – do what ought to be done.