“We have heard enough about being practical and efficient and prudent. We heard it preached through several decades that these things would save the world. I think that, with the salty taste of blood and sweat on our lips, we are learning that we had best talk again about doing what is right” (Ellis Arnall).
AS YOU KNOW BY NOW, I AM VERY OLD-FASHIONED. So you’ll hardly be surprised to hear me say that the question of rightness is the supreme question in life. As we make our decisions, especially the complex ones, many questions have to be asked, but the one that matters the most has never changed — what is the right thing to do?
There is no denying that doing the right thing often requires courage. Following our conscience can have short-term consequences that are fearful, but I agree with A. W. Tozer, who said, “If a course is right, [one] should take it because it is right, not because he is afraid not to take it. And if it is wrong, he should avoid it though he lose every earthly treasure and even his very life as a consequence.”
Those who tend to be pragmatic need to avoid defining what is right solely in terms of consequences. The possible consequences of our decisions must surely be taken into account (Jesus of Nazareth called it “counting the cost”), but we must not define what is right in terms of what works the best from a practical standpoint. Rightness often requires going against the counsels of prudence and practicality. Following our conscience can be inconvenient, to say the least.
But whatever obstacles stand between us and doing what is right, we need to be bold and believe that if a thing is right, there will always be a way to do it. So rightness requires not only courage but also confidence. “Progress in every age results only from the fact that there are some men and women who refuse to believe that what they know to be right cannot be done” (Russell W. Davenport).
In our postmodern age, the question of feelings is usually the main question. But again, I’m old-fashioned. I still believe in the supremacy of what is right. Good feelings aren’t always at our command, but no matter which direction the emotional breezes are blowing, there is one thing that’s always within our power — we can do what is right.
“You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do what is right in spite of your feelings” (Pearl S. Buck).