The credo, “Do the right thing,” was drilled into me from birth. But what exactly is the “right thing”? Is it a moving target that shifts according to our whims? Or is it an undeviating truth that refuses to be compromised no matter what? And how do we discern our place on that continuum of conscience? Furthermore, do we have any interest in doing so?
Is right the choice we make out of fear of the ubiquitous “what will people say?” Or fear of reprisal? Abandonment? When fear drives your choices, you can be sure an invisible puppeteer is pulling your strings.
It was decades before I came to grips with the reality that what my mother advocated as “the right thing” was what she wanted me to do. Any other option, she admonished, ensured “God’s punishment.” It led to a life motivated by fear and “shoulds.” My own knowingness was in conflict with what I saw and what I heard. So brainwashed was I that I became deaf to the voice of my soul.
To the runaway ego, the right thing is whatever furthers its personal agendas or its hunger for power. It’s that part of us willing to stop at nothing to achieve our greedy, self-serving desires. It remembers every slight, every instance of abandonment, all the disapproval, the pain of every betrayal, of not being heard or valued, and all the times we felt shamed and victimized. It then transforms these wounds into a menu of responses, from retribution, to winning at all costs, to an ultra-competitive need to be right, to an overpowering craving for power and control.
The narcissistic ego revels in life as a zero-sum game. Win/win isn’t even on its radar. If not balanced by the soul’s conscience and empathy, the ego runs amok. It’s Sammy Glick in the novel and play, “What Makes Sammy Run,” who achieves show-business success through backstabbing, deception, and betrayal. Continue reading