The other day, as I was getting ready to leave work for the winter break, an opportunity fell in my lap to serve up a (small) portion of revenge.
It was a small opportunity. A cracked window. More an act of snarky sneakiness than anything actually harmful.
My husband, half-jokingly (at least, I think he was only half-serious. He’s at the end of his proverbial rope with a certain situation these days) encouraged me to do it. He even offered to commit the crime himself, so that my hands were not tarnished.
Irreverently, I laughed at him and tossed out: “Isn’t this the season of your guy? What would Jesus do? He’d <insert the right thing>!”. And I did what Jesus would have wanted me to do. It wasn’t hard. It was low stakes, and clear, and the potential satisfaction of the alternative did not outweigh the guilt of what would clearly have been the less moral path.
As a general rule, I do not believe there is a cosmic reward, or punishment for that matter, for our actions. I don’t believe in a heaven or hell that we are sent to by some divine judge after we draw our last breath. As much as I would like to believe in karma, because I love the idea, I have seen far too many evil people skip happily through the tulips while good people suffer anguish and heartache.
In other words, I don’t believe in choosing the hard right over the easy wrong because there will be some reward. Instead, I believe in doing the right thing, because, well, it’s the right thing to do. Just because.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint. I have a veritable laundry list of shortcomings that, try as I might, I can’t seem to entirely shake, even in my self-aware and actualized adulthood. I’m cranky. A lot. I don’t always choose my words wisely. I can be quick-tempered. Reactive. Moody. Sulky. You get the idea.
But when it comes to my actions, when it comes right down to the line and I have to do something, I like to believe that I choose what is right. Or at the very least, what I believe to be right (who knows what the objective, absolute “right” is at any given moment?). Even my ex-husband, who as it turns out, didn’t like me for a large portion of our marriage, said often and right to the end of our union, that my “moral compass pointed due north.”
Here’s the thing: I have worked very, very, VERY hard over the past 4 years to not only continue trudging due north, but to do so without the bitterness (okay, rage) that I am doing it while others do not. I’m a fairly intelligent person, well versed in rhetoric, and I could come up with a laundry list of reasons why I should feel entitled to make different choices. It’s not so much the actions that are hard (because let’s face it, I know what to do), rather having those actions used against me. Used for others’ profit. Used to manipulate me, when the ultimate joke is that I don’t need to be manipulated, just asked nicely and with respect.
But old habits are hard to break, and entrenched patterns of behavior continue ad nauseam.
So I find myself today, this week of Christmas, quietly asking (some might say praying) for the universe to grant me peace. Not retribution. Not revenge. But peace. Peace in knowing that doing the right thing is its own reward, and that even as others undeservedly profit from my choices and decisions, that it does not detract from or undermine my moral compass.
It is not so hard to keep making the right choices in the face of so much wrong, but it is hard to do so with peace, and acceptance, and without bitterness.
Unlike the other day when I laughingly and irreverently referred to the “guy of the season”, and then just as cavalierly made the right choice, today I am angry.
Today I am struggling.
Today, I have had it with doing the right thing without any reward, while watching others profit.
Today, I would like to believe in karma. Or the Old Testament God. Or a sinkhole silver lining. Something.
In the absence of such divine power, I suppose my only viable choice is to keep choosing the hard right over the easy wrong, and trust that I am making the right choice.