Todays blog is a special one, a one from a friend who has had an incredible influence on my outlook of always being kind. I hope you enjoy, I know you will enjoy….
“Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is wrong for the same reason that doing the wrong thing for the right reason is right.”
My voice broke as I choked out this mantra in front of a hundred-something people on November 7, 2015, not because I’m afraid of public speaking. I love it. Not because I’m afraid of people. I love them. Not because I didn’t want to say those words. I was honored.
It was my Noni’s funeral.
I was reading her eulogy.
This saying encapsulates one of the many things she taught me in the nineteen years I knew her. I think of and use it often.
I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve decided that “crooked” is a funny word to me because, like many, it can mean more than one thing. A quick Google search will show you this:
Bent or twisted out of shape or out of place.
(Informal) Dishonest; illegal.
It’s probably not a great idea to be a crooked person, considering the second definition. Some of the best mentors in my life have always encouraged me to follow my moral compass and to do what I know is right, even if and when it’s not what’s easy. I think any halfway decent person would probably agree with this advice.
But what if, despite our best intentions, we end up doing the wrong thing? My Noni would tell you this: It is just that - the intention - more so than the action itself, that dictates the purity of a person’s heart. And at 23, I can truthfully say that I wholeheartedly believe in that notion. I try each and every day to remember it.
Sometimes life goes crooked. (If you’re still with me, then you know that this time I am referring to the first definition.) I don’t think I have to tell you the difference between a straight line and one that is jagged. The trajectory of a straight line is smooth, uninterrupted. A line that is not straight, well, bends. It has corners, nooks and crannies. If you think about it, though, a jagged line is made up of multiple straight lines that bend at varying angles and carry on for different lengths before it changes route again. (Cue Siri: “Recalculating…”) And sometimes, along the course of our crooked lives, we end up acting a little crooked, too.
But it’s not our actions that determine whether we are good people or bad people. It’s our intentions.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that life loves to throw curve balls, and it’s damn good at it. We are often faced with tough choices, and with those choices come repercussions that affect ourselves, our families, and even, at times, perfect strangers. Why we decide to do what we decide to do with that knowledge is what counts.
In the simplest of terms, I guess we have to ask ourselves what motivates us. Say, for instance, you and a friend have an argument. You’ve both said unkind things, but you decide to be the bigger person and apologize first. Are you doing so to hang it over their head later that you apologized? Are you doing so out of spite, or is the apology coming from a genuine, gracious part of your heart because you value your friendship? On the flip side, if you’ve seen Aladdin, you know that he steals bread and shares it with a couple of starving children within the first few minutes of the movie. Yes, stealing is wrong, but again - in the most rudimentary example I can give you - his intentions were good.
We could sit here for the next week and pore over such moral dilemmas. We all have them daily, both big and small. I’ll leave you with this: I mentioned before the ever-changing trajectory of our crooked lives. Any number of things causes our gears to shift and start along a new path. The really, really sweet spots in life are where our own crooked lines intersect those of others, even if only for a moment, and we get to choose our intentions. And in all those little detours - in the nooks and crannies of that crooked line - is where life happens and these decisions face us.
Be good. Stay crooked.