Doing the right thing – does not necessarily mean that it will always be the popular choice. Or does it mean that others in your life will agree with you.
Several years ago I had a situation which challenged my personal convictions and integrity. I had a problem with a student at the private school where I was teaching. She was belligerent to my authority and although all of the teachers in the class treated her with respect – but were firm on expectations – she did not reciprocate the respect. I called her out on it – in a private way, telling her it was not appropriate behavior in the classroom. Instead of responding correctly – she went home ‘telling tales’ how this mean music teacher had it in for her.
What came next was a most distressing email written to me from her mother. I was painted as the villain – and she the victim. I reported the email to my boss – the administrator of the school where I was teaching. His advice was to not do anything – be silent and NOT answer back at all. And that he would handle it.
What came next was much soul-searching – as I tried to come to grips with the accusations in the letter against my character and integrity as a teacher. I wrestled with it for a couple of days. I remember well – my son was in a baseball tournament out-of-town that weekend – and I would sit in the car until the game started, praying and trying to figure out what to do.
In the end, I DID write back – and realized I was going in direct contrast and against the ‘authority’ set in place over me regarding this matter. I examined the consequences of such an action – talked it over with my husband and good friend/team teacher also in the classroom – and decided to answer the accusations myself rather than just be ‘silent’. To me this seemed the best course of action – as it directly affected me and my reputation as a teacher. I did not want a third-party interference in the matter. Those never work. And in fact, from personal experience I can say this: They do much more harm than good. So with this in mind – I wrote a reply.
I was kind – but I was firm. I told the other side of the story, the belligerence and the struggle that this girl had with authority in the classroom. It was detailed and cited many examples which could be verified by the other teachers and students.
I sent it. And I waited. I knew that there could be two very different outcomes to my ’email’ – and knew I could really take a serious reprimand for my actions. Two days later I received another email from the mother. This one was very different from the first. She was apologetic and felt very badly for saying the things she had said without checking the facts. When she confronted her daughter with my letter – the girl broke down and admitted the lies she had told. Had I not written the letter – the meeting to be held later that week between the father and the administrator of the school would have been very heated. He would not have had all the facts. My reply completely diffused the anger that they had and my email conveyed the situation and set the record straight. Long story short: we ended up being friends. That in itself was a miracle. And this would not have happened if I had allowed others to speak for me. My silence could have been seen as guilt.
Why do I tell you this story? Because there have been more of these ‘situations’ in my life before and since then. Some have had a great outcome like this one – others have not. It is ALWAYS better to work things out with the other person alone – than to involve a third person in the equation – and allow them to speak for you.
Sometimes you have to step out and do what is right – even in the midst of people telling you not to. Even people who are in authority over you. Even when you trust them and believe them. Am I saying to go against authority? If it doesn’t line up with what is right – then yes. Even if you are told that it is right but you still have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right about what they are telling you. And sometimes you must act according to your own personal convictions – even risking a ‘falling out’ with someone important to you – like a good friend or a family member.
In the final analysis – God is the only one you have to report to on anything. And at the end of the day – He goes much easier on us than most people do – even those people in positions of authority. His grace and mercy are new every morning. He loves and forgives in a way that human beings are not capable of doing. He doesn’t hold a grudge – nor does He remember our sins anymore to use against us. He is not sensitive – and you cannot hurt His feelings – in the same way you can hurt another human being. He has no ‘agenda’ for you in the same way that others may have for you. He does not have any pride on the line and does not insist on His way. You need only seek His council to determine what the right thing is. God ALWAYS wants relationships to be healed – He is a God of resolution, restoration and of healing. If what you are being told does not lead in this direction – it is not from God.
I have learned this the hard way – and I’m still waiting for others in my life to get it too.
When our life is over – we will have to stand before God. We will have no one to hide behind – no one to ‘cover us’ except Jesus. And I believe when everything is stripped bare from our lives – God will allow us to see our lives and those ‘key moments’ in them – pointing to the obvious times where we had a choice to do the right thing. No excuses. No hiding. No blaming. It will come down to just us and God. And when I stand before Him and He asks these questions: ‘Did you do everything in your power to restore lost people to Christ? Did you do everything in your power to restore those that had something against you? Did you love them like I love them?’ I want to be able to answer – ‘Yes’ to all three.
I want to be found with an open heart. One that followed my personal convictions – sometimes risking popularity and personal regard from key people in my life – to follow what was the right thing to do. I want Him to find me with no regrets, no secrets, no agenda – for it will all be revealed in that moment. Whether I did what was right – or whether I settled for the easier road.
I want to encourage you today. Are you looking for ways to restore relationships in your life? If you are – then your heart is following after the very heart of God. Follow your convictions. Don’t allow others to tell you what they are. Don’t allow others – even well-meaning influences in your life – to tell you what is right for you. Maybe you need to speak up. Maybe you need to be silent. Whatever it is – do the right thing. Do it today.