Doing the Right Thing


Does It Even Matter Anymore?

By Mary R. Dittman, M.B.A.


When I’m teaching my college students about business ethics, we cover the topic of “situational ethics.”  

Situational ethics are values that change with the circumstances.  For example, you may say it’s wrong to commit adultery, but it’s okay if the partners don’t love each other and are “only staying together legally for the children.”

As single women, it can be frustrating when we see others doing “the wrong thing” but getting rewarded.  

I don’t date married men, but I’ve known plenty of women who do and whose lovers left their wives!

It’s not only in dating.  Maybe there’s that coworker who cuts corners and is dishonest, but she gets a promotion.  Or your child loses a spot on the cheerleading team because the daughter of the coach’s best friend tried out. - your kid was clearly superior, but she lost out because of “politics.”

There’s so much opportunity today to be shady and it seems like it’s everywhere!  From politicians to law enforcement to education.

The recent college admissions scandal was frustrating partly because legitimate athletes weren’t allowed to attend universities because their spots were taken by students whose parents bribed their way onto a team - when the students weren’t even athletes!  

While those fake athletes are losing their spots, the students who were playing by the rules and lost out will never get to go back and claim what could have been rightly theirs.

Sometimes it all seems so unfair.

I mean, what’s the point of doing the right thing?  Especially if nobody even knows you’re doing it!  When you’re single, you may be doing the right thing, with nobody to witness it except your cat!

I take comfort in knowing this is not a new struggle.

In Psalm 37, David writes, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

A friend of mine was telling me she lost out on a promotion to a clearly less experienced and less educated colleague.  And then was asked to train her.  Ouch.  But then, Little Miss Newly Promoted was fired for what my friend called an “Ethics 101 Violation.”

There’s a woman in town I’ve envied: she’s beautiful, has a wealthy and successful husband, and they travel and live in luxury.  But I didn’t envy how it must have felt to open the newspaper, see his mug shot, and read about how he’s evaded over $1 million in taxes and is facing years in prison.

Then there’s the local bigwig a friend of mine tried to set me up with a few years ago.  He wasn’t interested, and I felt disappointed and a little rejected.  He’s now on his third marriage, and just was arrested for two felonies and one misdemeanor.   He’s facing up to 20 years in prison, fines, and a lot of bad publicity.  Say goodbye to the house, the income, the pension and retirement benefits, and the ability to find a good job.  (By the way, I’m no longer feeling disappointed about dodging that bullet.)

Sometimes we don’t get to see the “come-uppence” we think is due.  It really doesn’t matter, anyway.

You can’t control what other people do and you can’t control the results they get.

The old saying, “Virtue is its own reward,” is true.  We do the right thing because doing the right thing brings us joy and contentment.

I don’t date married men because I’m clear that is not what I want.  If other women want to do that, I can’t control it.  But I would rather stay single for the rest of my life (which is a real possibility) than take another woman’s man.

I don’t cheat on my taxes because I don’t need the anxiety of wondering if I’ll get away with it.

I don’t falsify business expenses because I don’t want to invite dishonesty into my life.

I believe the Universe registers our integrity or our lack of integrity.  “Somebody” is always watching - and I’m not talking about your Instagram followers!  

And there may not be a “reward” for doing the right thing.  

My number one desire is to have peace in my life.  That’s why I try to do the right thing.  Of course, I’m not perfect, and I mess up all the time.  But I try to do what’s right because I want peace.

I don’t go to bed stressed about the possibility of a tax audit.  I don’t worry about someone finding out I’m sleeping with her husband.  I don’t lose sleep over lies I’ve told.

Maybe I don’t have as much cash to spend because I pay my taxes in full.  Maybe I’m single and tired of it.  Maybe my life doesn’t sound as exciting when I’m honest.

But I have peace and I am available for good things to come into my life.

For me, that deep-rooted peace is the foundation for a One-Derful Life.  When you’re peaceful, you can be confident that you are okay just as you are - even if you never have that relationship you desire.

Question: Do you think it matters if you are doing the right thing even when nobody else knows it?

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