Positive Practices: Doing the Right Thing

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, but it’s a new year and time for Unfiltered Opinion to rise from its festive slumber…

Zombie Hand Rising Out Of A Grave

So, let’s kick 2020 off with the first in what will hopefully become a series of posts about positive practices. In this post, I want to discuss the art of doing the right thing. It may sound patronisingly straightforward and completely undeserving of being a discussion point but, if that truly were the case, the world and the people in it wouldn’t feel so utterly fucked so much of the time, would it?

But how do I define “doing the right thing”, then?

As always, I am only sharing my personal take on life, but “doing the right thing” in my book is all about being selfless and doing right by other people regardless of whether your actions and decisions will benefit you personally or not.

It’s about treating others the way you, yourself, would wish to be treated.

It’s about putting aside greed, selfish preferences or personal gain to do what you – deep down – KNOW is the right thing to do.

It’s about being honest and virtuous, and treating other people as the ends rather than the means.

It’s about doing things that are right without trying to (consciously or subconsciously) calculate what sort of “trade” you will be doing in the process i.e. only doing somebody a favour because they will owe you down the line.

It’s about striving to protect something higher than our individual selves.

I was inspired to make this post by – of all things – an ebay transaction last week. In a nutshell, I purchased something for the approximate value of £25-£30 just before Christmas and it still hadn’t arrived nearly a week after New Year. I messaged the seller and explained that I understood that the post was sluggish around this time of year but that I was just a little concerned that the item I’d ordered wasn’t coming. I asked them if they had any tracking information and they got back to me to say that they couldn’t find said information but that, yes, I should have received the item by that point. They apologised and issued a full refund. I was content with the solution and that was that.

Two days later, the item arrived in the post. According to the post marks, it had been posted on the nineteenth of December with a “Special Delivery” next-day service.

Whoops.

At first, I thought, “Get in! I’ve got a my item plus all of my money back”. It seemed like a major score.

But then I thought about it some more and remembered one of my all-time favourite philosophies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I contacted the seller, informed them that the item had turned up and offered to reverse the refund.

They were grateful for my honesty with the situation but it wasn’t their thanks that I was seeking. I just wanted to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. I wanted to preserve the value of honesty.

Yes, I could have easily gotten away with my free purchase, and I’m sure that many would have done just that and lost no sleep over it. It is, after all, a dog-eat-dog world at times and any unexpected bonuses we become the beneficiary of aren’t easy to relinquish. At times, we even feel that we deserve these moments of good fortune for the suffering or hardships that we’ve faced. Or as compensation for the times that we’ve been screwed over by somebody else. And that’s fine but I try to draw the line at plussing at the expense of somebody else, especially if they haven’t done anything to warrant it.

Now, I’m not trying to put myself across as a saint. After all, I did initially feel pretty fucking good about having my (very tasty) cake and eating it when it came to that particular ebay situation. That I cannot deny.

But I did question my actions and arrive at the conclusion that I’d rather do the right thing, even it meant forfeiting my small splash of fortune. I sacrificed a chance to “plus” and did right by the ebay seller because that’s how I’d like to be treated myself. After all, you can’t really roll around bitching about how people are so dishonest these days or always out to screw you over if you are going to behave the same way.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy and for a good reason: it usually means going out of your way for somebody else – or making a sacrifice – with no expectation of a reward. It means being selfless for the sake of preserving important, high-level values such as honesty and charity. There are a lot of people who will only do the right thing because they are – in effect – bartering and doing good deeds so that they can call in favours down the line or extract something from another person in exchange for their help. This doesn’t count as “doing the right thing” because you are doing something as a means to your own, personal ends.

baretering

Doing the right thing becomes doubly hard when we are surrounded by people who are only interested in themselves and think nothing of doing whatever it takes to get ahead, regardless of how their actions affect others. It is, unfortunately, an attitude that can lead to much material, superficial and financial success – you know, all those shiny things that we want in our lives – and so it becomes an attractive way of life.

And that’s why adopting high-level values and doing the right thing is such a difficult thing to do. You might not get the fat bank balance. You probably won’t get to bang all the hot girls. And you likely won’t have such an easy, comfortable time of it.

Nevertheless, I still believe that it’s a positive practice to always question yourself and your actions – so that you can analyse whether you are really doing the right thing or whether there are some selfish motives lurking beneath the surface of your consciousness. I feel that if you want to surround yourself with the best, most genuine of people, then this is one big way to move forwards in that direction.

Of course, you have to strike a balance, because there are so many people who will – consciously or not – take advantage of another’s honest, charitable nature. “Doing the right thing” doesn’t mean that you should be permanently bent over and taking it up the arse from users and those looking to use you as a stepping stone. Saying “No” and recognising where to draw a line is just as important as doing right by others.

Bear in mind that this is just my viewpoint. It is not my intention to get preachy or encourage anybody to do as I do. I’m no master of doing the “right thing” all of the time, after all. I mess up constantly and always try to remind myself that I’m likely wrong or incredibly ignorant about most things. But pausing to question what I’m doing is one of the big things that I intend to keep working on going forwards.

 

We live in a dishonest society

I’ve reviewed and referenced Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, before on this blog and today I want to tackle another topic inspired by the contents of said book. It’s a discussion about honesty and how I have to agree with Manson that here in the western world, we live in a dishonest society. I feel that this is important to recognise and be aware of on a conscious level because while I hear people constantly acknowledging deceit and distrust, these same people are still consistently shocked when they are on the receiving end of it or hear some shocking news about a scandal involving lies.

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On a brief side note, I’m one of those people that doesn’t believe the blurb about living in a “free country” or “free society”. We do but we don’t. It’s duality. We are free in that we aren’t ruled by violence, oppression or religion and we must never forget our freedom to do a great many things that we take for granted, things that people living in harsher environments beneath hardline governments could only dream of. At the same time, we are also sublety controlled through advertising, poisonous propaganda, social expectations and the media. In this respect, we are not as free as others with the biggest tragedy being that we simply cannot see it staring us in the face.

In the book, Manson reflects on time spent in Russia and how the bluntness off the Russian people initially shocked him and came across as rude. In time however, he came to realise that what he was witnessing was frankness and unadulterated expression.

“Honesty in the truest sense of the word. Communication with no conditions, no strings attached, no ulterior motive, no sales job, no desperate attempt to be liked”

“In this case, Russia had me reexamining the bullshitty fake-nice communication that is so common in Anglo culture, and asking myself if this wasn’t somehow making us more insecure around each other and worse at intimacy”

We can all relate to this. Grinning and bearing a shitty situation. Pretending to like co-workers when in fact you cannot stand them or the shit they come out with. Lying to your partner and saying she looks great or that her jeans don’t make her arse look fat. We’re constantly lying to each other and maintaining false frontages and these are only small, everyday examples that we aren’t even aware that we are partaking in. This shit goes all the way to the top and filters down into all levels of society like poison.

In a sense, it is understandable. After all, you can read this post (or any other far superior takes on the subject) but changing your attitude overnight is another thing altogether. Society won’t change with you. The reactions of others won’t be what you need/want to hear. For a full-on shift towards pure honesty to occur, society as a whole needs knocking over and re-building and that isn’t going to happen so the only other way forward is to commit to honesty and be willing to take the hits as everybody and everything resists you, despite an existence of honesty and openness being what everybody vocally cries out for. It’s fucked up isn’t it.

After all, standing up in the office and telling your co-workers that they are talking bullshit or telling them what you really think of them might end your career or – at the least – make your working environment too uncomfortable to continue with. Deciding to give the finger to the ‘grin and bear it’ approach could land you in similar trouble. And telling your girlfriend that her outfit looks terrible or that her backside does look fat in those jeans might put you in the doghouse or make you a newly single man. All of this despite society begging for honesty and the truth.

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The positive in this is that there are people who will appreciate honesty, even if they don’t say so. It’s a start at least. Trouble is, they are an elusive bunch. Some people do appreciate that being called out on their bullshit helps them to remain humble and continue to improve themselves or learn from criticism rather than be offended by it and fly into a rage. There are women who will listen to your unfiltered opinion (pun totally intended) on their outfit and tell you to “get fucked” but secretly appreciate your honesty. After all, what is the point in asking how you look if you are only after one answer? Men despair over these situations all the time: tell her she looks great and she says you’re lying or telling her what she wants to hear. Tell her she looks terrible and she gets pissed off. There’s no winning! At least if you have been honest then you have been true.

If she gets upset about your critique then it’s not her fault but the way that society has conditioned us over generations. She’s not upset at your criticism, more likely upset as a result of society’s pressures to be beautiful all of the time and to be extraordinary. If you really care then yes, some dishonesty and tact may sometimes be necessary – if you know that telling a brutal truth will flare up an existing condition such as anxiety or an eating disorder for example. On the flipside, your significant other may decide that she’s wearing what she wants to wear and that you’ll just have to deal with it. That’s something else to be admired and promoted by the way. That’s a woman not necessarily agonising over every detail or being totally controlled by the fashion industry or the expectation of others.

But I’m going off track here. Back to quoting the book:

“But in the “free” West, my Russian teacher continued, there existed an abundance of economic opportunity – so much economic opportunity that it became far more valuable to present yourself in a certain way, even if it was false, than to actually BE that way. Trust lost its value. Appearances and salesmanship became more advantageous forms of expression. Knowing a lot of people superficially was more beneficial than knowing a few people closely”

“This is why it became the norm in Western cultures to smile and say polite things even if you don’t feel like it, to tell little white lies and agree with someone whom you don’t actually agree with. This is why people learn to pretend to be friends with people they don’t actually like, to buy things they don’t actually want. The economic system promotes such deception”

“The downside of this is that you never know, in the West, if you can completely trust the person you’re talking to. Sometimes this is the case even amongst good friends or family members. There is such pressure in the West to be likable that people often reconfigure their entire personality depending on the person they are dealing with”

All of this genuinely hit me quite hard. On the surface, it’s basic knowledge that we are all aware of. We all know that this is going and we are all guilty of it. So why do we allow it to continue? For the reasons I already mentioned mostly, namely reprocussions from a society that has been conditioned to be false and ignore the beauty of raw honesty. Another reason is that people seem to get upset and offended ridiculously easy these days and so it is sometimes viewed as “safer” to either say nothing or to simply agree rather than poking the hornet’s nest with a stick. Also, resolving to be honest is a commitment: a commitment to a new life where you are likely to be ostracised or branded an outcast, a “bad” person even.

Look at how anybody daring to raise their head above the parapet and challenge popular opinion with some honest views is roasted on social media and branded a racist, sexist, homophobic, mysogynist or outdated personality. The world won’t appreciate your honesty BUT it will rip public figures to shreds, starved dog-style, if said figures have been caught lying or being dishonest. This here is a prime example of the dishonesty and blatant hypocrisy in our society. It’s right there on the surface but we can’t see it.

On the other hand, if you can find like-minded people to surround yourself with or a partner who appreciates your honesty (and is equally as honest with you) then you can have a much more fulfilling life. It isn’t easy but you have to ask yourself if you want to continue to be a part of the machine. Does the prospect of living in a superficial, hollow society drowning in falseness for many more years sound like an appealing future for you?

At the very least, it’s food for thought.