The right thing

the_right_thing“The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”Neil Gaiman

It is rare that people hurt others just for their own amusement. Most times, people hurt others because they believe that is the right thing to do. They believe in their cause, in their rights, or they believe the others deserve it.

The worst atrocities have been committed because people thought they were doing the right thing. What had to be done. I find this particular concept to be so hard to grasp, because it implies that morality, virtue, good and evil, are all subjective.

And they are.

No one ever said. “I am a bad man and I am doing bad things to good people.”

Unfortunately, people feel the need to be right. It’s an egocentric and selfish way of looking at things, but it’s how we function. We categorize people, we label them, we judge them, and because we are afraid of them, we do everything that’s in our powers to prove to them how wrong they are.

We are the only ones who know, right?

From religion to politics to sports, people fight and argue and hurt each other just because they think that they hold the truth.

It’s so easy to think like this that it doesn’t require any effort…

And it becomes almost impossible to admit that you, in fact, might be wrong.

People function like this. Not really built to see the flaws in their own beliefs, thinking, or behavior.

I’ve been trying lately to ask myself: Am I wrong?

Whenever I get angry at someone, whenever I feel that they are just wrong to think or say something. Whenever I feel that people are shallow or that they just don’t get the point…

Have I really made myself clear?

I’m not doubting myself, I’m just trying to understand others better. To understand myself better, and to give others a better chance at understanding me.

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28 comments on “The right thing

  1. That One Girl says:

    I loved reading this entry. I find that taking a step back and asking yourself insightful questions really helps in the understanding of our own minds!

  2. Great post. Yes, yes, yes. We hurt no one, especially ourselves, when we can reflect on our motives and choices.

  3. rixlibris says:

    Situational ethics have propelled the advance of mankind since we first crawled out of the caves. We feed ourselves and our own first and, if necessary, at the expense of any and all others. If it feels “wrong” we can always label it “manifest destiny” and soldier on for the greater good..

  4. Michael Harding says:

    Thought provoking, indeed. You are quite correct in saying that Doing the Right Thing is entirely subjective. I would add that sometimes wrapping an action in Doing the Right Thing seems like a rationalization, a way of self-justifying an action that will be greeted with some resistance.

  5. hippiegeek42 says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how far a person will go to prove that they are right. All of us try to stand up for ourselves when someone tells us that we are wrong, but when should a person draw the line to lay their arguments to rest cease fighting? Personally, I believe that there is no cause worth hurting somebody else over but there are definitely others who would disagree. Essentially, every war fought throughout history is the result of someone trying to prove that they are right.

  6. talesbytink says:

    Thank you for having self-responsibility!

  7. brunda bru says:

    excellent thoughts…understanding people in a different perspective like yours needs a lot of self-reflection and truth!!!!loved the post:)

  8. Absolutely true. Yes, there are such things as sociopaths, but by far the most dangerous people are those with a convinced sense of mission and the ineffable belief that they are right. Combine this with egocentricity, plus incisive intelligence and you have a capability to slaughter millions. Peculiar, though, how the most extreme cases rise from the most obscure beginnings – witness Hitler, Napoleon, etc.. Perhaps ambition can assist the process of self-delusion?
    I think, most of us do possess some element of self-criticism (I won’t call it self-doubt) which acts as a safety valve in many different ways; and that’s where you’re going with this. Relating to other people’s perspective of your actions can be very restricting, however.

    • Hitler also thought he was doing the right thing. He, along with a great many, believed in the killing of millions. I do wonder though… what would we think of the Nazi now if they had won the war? Difficult to say.

      And, yes, I agree with your last statement: you simply can’t please everyone, and sometimes you’ve got to put yourself first. It’s a balancing act.

  9. CathyW says:

    Really worth reading. Very thought provoking and timely.

  10. Live and let live..diversity of beliefs is important to have an heteregonous world

  11. lewar1 says:

    Lovely piece…. as Aristotle said it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. Tolerance is one of the pillars of community

  12. Your quote grabbed my attention — and then your question. “Am I wrong?” — powerful!

  13. Vicki Schoen says:

    Thank you for such a well thought-out and well expressed post. I have heard many others state similar messages. Unfortunately word still hasn’t gotten around–and the lesson is much easier to voice than to implement. May I have permission to repost this on my blog?

  14. simon7banks says:

    The fact that people do terrible things convinced that they’re right does not require that all questions of right and wrong are purely subjective any more than the fact that some people think Global Warming is a myth while most think it’s real makes that question purely subjective. Yes, a question of right and wrong cannot be proved – because it depends on what you value. If you think all that matters is your race, or becoming rich, you cannot be proved wrong, whereas one would like to think that the climate change question can be proved (though some would still deny it). But I’m prepared to say that the holocaust, for example, was wrong not just for me because I think so, but for all people and all time because such things are wrong. A humanist may approach this by looking for common human values and a theist by trying to divine the will of God. Both believe some things can be right or wrong irrespective of personal preference.

    You’re absolutely right about the mass killers, although for example Napoleon’s bloody wars were based on a miscalculation rather than a belief that he must be right: he thought he would lose support in France if he stopped winning battles, so he had to keep fighting wars.

    But the people who most bravely fight against great evils also do so from unqualified conviction. The people who resist tyrants at huge risk and with small chance of success are rarely satisfied that all moral questions are relative.

  15. devonkw says:

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only person who wonders about this. I hope it helps the world somehow.

  16. Definitely. I notice that if I sit with an idea or situation for a bit, and study it from other viewpoints, I sometimes change my mind about it. This is true even if I felt really strongly about my original position. We all come from different life experiences and this colors our views of things. Taking a step back and seeing it from the point of new of others is important.

  17. melisdvash says:

    I need to say that I totally disagree with you here. LOTS of people hurt other people for the entertainment it provides. Watch any bunch of good ol’ boys making life hard on the mildly retarded janitor, or anyone who has ever been the brunt of the ‘cool’ kids. What makes someone dangerous is not whether or not they believe they have the single line on THE TRUTH – but only whether or not they believe they have a right to hurt, torture and/or kill others. Even just the ability to get away with it. One doesn’t have to believe one is right, all one needs to believe is that other people don’t matter. THOSE are the dangerous people, and they are everywhere. Also I find it troubling that you say you are not doubting yourself. Doesn’t that make you one of the people convinced of your own rightness? I am not trying to cast doubt on you, only to note an apparent contradiction in what I read.

  18. Vonnie says:

    It’s a great way to ensure effective communication, Cristian. I do it too.

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