Do you do it right? Or do you do the right thing? Or do you do the right thing right? Big difference.
I can rob a convenience store but if I do it “right,” I get away with it. It’s the wrong thing done right. Or I can give five bucks to a beggar but if he buys drugs with it, I’ve done the right thing (charity) in the wrong way. Leaders must figure out how to do the right things in the right way.
If you agree the government should take money out of your paycheck for somebody else’s unemployment, then you’ll agree with Obamacare; you’ll feel it’s the right thing that you should pay for somebody else’s health care. But the way in which it was crammed through Congress and the manner in which it is being rolled out is scandalous. The right thing perhaps, but in the wrong way.
We’re faced with this dilemma every day at work, aren’t we? The boss finds out that Susie made the same clerical error once again. She sends out material to your customers with the same misspelled word. The right thing is to correct her so she won’t do it again. The wrong way is to yell at her and make her cry. The right thing “done wrong.”
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But we’re good at excusing this kind of bad behavior. “I’m the Boss; I have the right and the responsibility to demand the right products from my people.” Think of how many times we’ve heard those words. We think we’re good at identifying the “right thing” very quickly, but we’re often blind to the “right way” of doing them. This happens in business, politics, and yes, even in religion.
I worked in the Vatican (my obsession) for two years during the Catholic Revolution called the 2nd Vatican Council. Those days remind me of the past several years in Washington, D.C. The Vatican was just as divided then as our American Congress is today. Conservatives fighting against liberals; both sides claiming: “God is on our side.” “We’re doing the right thing.” But many times they did it the wrong way.
I remember Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani. He was the head of the Holy Office. This is the department in the Vatican that used to be called “The Holy Office of the Inquisition.” Pope John XXIII called Ottaviani the “Prophet of Doom” but the cardinal considered himself the “Hammerer of Heretics.” He felt he had the duty to “keep the deposit of faith intact,” and he felt it was more important to “condemn than to encourage.” Several years ago, the Georgia Baptist Convention sounded very much like Ottaviani when they condemned Dr. Kirby Godsey for heresy, and they were wrong. They did the wrong thing in the wrong way.
I’m not saying this is easy. It’s hard to have solid convictions and not be closed minded and arrogant. It’s hard to listen to opposing views and not be belligerent. This is why 50 percent of Americans get divorced; this is why Congress looks like a children’s playground; this is why we have so many wars and jihads. It’s hard to do the right thing right.
Aging helps. There’s not many other places where aging helps. Old age makes us lose our hearing and our eyesight and our hair; it causes our bones to break and our muscles to spasm; it makes our neck and arms look like turkeys, and it gives us sags and bags and wrinkles. But aging does help us to do the right thing right. It’s all about mellowing, I guess. We’ve seen this show before; we know the ending, and so we stop and think before charging in the way we did when we were younger.
This week when you’re faced with a serious decision, ask yourself:
Is this truly the right thing? Have I researched other opinions, other ideas? Have I asked for other ideas? Have I set aside my opinion and really listened to the opposite side? Have I tried on the opposite side like a shirt, to see how it fits? Am I convinced that for now this is the right thing?
Am I doing it the right way? Will this way hurt anybody? Will this way bring about the best results? What other ways could I do it? Am I convinced that -- for now -- I’m doing the right thing right?
Some people don’t have to wait for old age; they acquire wisdom early. You can be one of them,
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.