Do What is Right, but Right for Whom?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to do what is right. Not necessarily what is easy, or what we want, but what is right.

Suppose what is right for another in not right for us, however? If it is something that will harm us, then the answer is easy—do not do it.

What if it will not harm us, but is not convenient for us? Or it will not hurt us, but we really do not feel like doing it? Then the answer is more difficult. On the one hand, we need to take care of ourselves. On the other, we have responsibilities to others, especially those that depend upon us.

I do not think there are any easy answers to this. It depends on the situation and the participants. These are the guidelines I try to use.

  • Is it my sole responsibility to do it? If yes, then I do it.
  • Is it primarily my responsibility to do it? If yes, then I do it unless there is someone else responsible, available, and willing to do it.
  • Is it something that needs to be done and am I best qualified, capable, and/or available to do it? If yes, then I generally do it.
  • Is it something that is someone else’s responsibility? If yes, then I may do it if the person does not ask for help often. If the person is capable of doing it herself and yet frequently asks for help, I usually say no. There comes a point when I do not want someone to take advantage of me and I do not want to enable that person to not take responsibility.
  • If I do not do it, will someone come to harm regardless of whose responsibility it is? If yes, then I do it if I can.

Determining what is the right thing to do can be a difficult balancing act. If we at least think about it first and make a conscious decision, we will probably make a good decision.

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