Do What’s Right Anyway

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what is right and what is wrong when life throws things at you, or you find yourself in a unique situation.

And when you are put in the position of having to make a decision in that type of situation, it can be a mental tug of war that is hard to win.

I have to make all kinds of decisions as a judge that have serious consequences in peoples’ lives, on a daily basis. But frankly, it is usually making small, otherwise simple decisions, when I am not on the bench, that can be the most challenging.

That’s not just true for me, but for everyone.

I have one simple rule that try to I follow any time I find myself in a situation where I have to make a moral decision:

Do What Is Right, No Matter What!

When I first became a judge it was very important to me that I acted with integrity. It still is to this day over a decade later.  Interestingly, what I soon came to find out was that apparently there are many different definitions and degrees of integrity.

I searched for one that I could live by and try to use to guide myself with along the way.  Here’s what I came up with:

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching!

What a concept, huh?

We’ve all been in the position where we’ve had the challenge of deciding what to do when nobody was watching. It could be as simple as running a stop sign or going through a red light, late at night when nobody else is around.  Or it could be something like finding an item in a store that has the wrong price tag on it, and you know it.

Usually the analysis and rationalization that you go through runs something like this:

It’s just this once . . .

Nobody will know . . .

It’s not going to hurt anyone . . .

Who will miss just this little bit . . .?

Anyone else would do it . . .

And this list goes on and on.

But think about it . . . the simple fact that you find yourself rationalizing a simple decision like this should tell you that you have more than one option to choose from.

And the different options you find yourself trying to choose from, each have positive and negative aspects to them. When you really think about it, the decision you eventually make could benefit or hurt someone else, or even you.

Let’s Work Through Some Examples

Let’s take running the red light in the middle of the night, for example.

No police are around . . .

You’re in a hurry . . .

It doesn’t make sense to just sit there, right?


I’ve had that exact same situation come before me as a judge. It is not as unusual as you would think. Only in the unique situation before me, the person driving the car struck a pedestrian that they did not see, who was crossing from the dark side of the street.  The pedestrian had the right of way because the light was red for the driver.

Now the driver had to live with the thought that they struck someone with their car.

Another Example

How about the mislabeled item?

It’s a big store . . .

They put the price tag on it . . .  

They are not going to miss a few dollars . . . . 

I could use the money for myself . . .

Wrong Again.

I’ve also seen this situation many, many times as a judge.  Here’s what really happens.

Sometimes the cashier is blamed or even accused of being complicit. They could get fired or even prosecuted for theft.

Sometimes you could be accused of switching the price tag, which is the same as shoplifting. Even if you didn’t, you could end up in the criminal justice system.

Even if neither of these scenarios take place, who do you think picks up the tab when a store loses money?

Everyone else that shops there! It is reflected in the prices of the other items.

Unexpected Complications.

While many people think that it is easier to try to get away with something, and not act with integrity, I’ve found that it really is not so.

What is happening is that you are not really looking beyond the instant gratification.  You are not thinking about how your simple and otherwise easy decision could touch have serious consequences on other peoples’ lives.

It is really pretty selfish when you do think about it.

When you start to make these little decisions without concern as to how they can hurt others, it gets easier to do the same with bigger decisions that you have to make.

It can be a slippery slope where eventually all you think about is yourself and your instant gratification.

Kind of sad, wouldn’t you say?

But Just For A Second Try To Turn The Table And See What Happens When You Do The Right Thing.

So now think about this:

At the red light, you can take the few minutes to laugh with your friends or adjust the radio or to roll down the window to get some fresh air.

You could see the pedestrian or even if you don’t, he knows when you are going to move. No harm, no foul, nobody gets hurt and you can refocus when the light changes again.

Or how about this:

In the store, if you notice a mismarked item and you bring it to the attention of the clerk.  You may get it at that price anyway even though you didn’t try to get away with it, or you may even get it for free.

Either way, you will definitely be thanked and remembered as a person who is honest and helpful. You can’t put a price tag on that feeling!

And the clerk can bring it to the attention of store management.  Management may then look upon him or her as being a good employee, which could in turn help that person to get a raise and help his family.

You can’t put a price tag on that either!

All That From Just Doing What’s Right, No Matter What.

But most importantly, in both of these situations, you will know in your heart that you did the right thing.

That you put right before wrong . . .

That you are an honest person . . .  

That you resisted temptation to do the wrong thing . . .

Bottom line, you will know that you have that ever important character trait . . .


And that is something you can never put a price tag on.

Let me know what you think . . .