The Right Thing – No Matter What – while hard sometimes – is the surest path to peace.
In a whining voice of intense complaint 8-year old Isaac said to me, “Mom, you always do the right thing – even when it’s hard!” He was not happy. As for me, it made me think.
Every night at bed-time I would tell my children, “I love you always and forever, no matter what.” That phrase came from a children’s book I starting reading to my son when he was less than a year old.
I didn’t know diddly about parenting when my first child was born. My early parenting skills were gleaned from the idealistic morality of children’s books mixed with my own post-tragic childhood vision of familial utopia.
But THAT message, “I love you always and forever, no matter what” actually survived the testing filter of reality. Even years after my vision of unrelenting calm, gentleness, joy and consideration disintegrated in the gauntlet of unfiltered human experience – tenacious love seemed to be a still reliable guiding light. It has been the guiding light of love, truth and fierce ownership that has led the heroic leaders I know and coach to do the right thing, no matter what, even when it’s hard. And in doing so, they are heroes.
Consider this story from Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Boundaries For Leaders: Father (company owner and CEO) who is grooming the Son to take over the family business. Father witnesses Son lighting into an employee, really ripping her apart. Father has repeatedly declared that behavior unacceptable.
Father calls son into his office and says, “Son, I wear two hats around here, ‘Boss’ and ‘Father.’ Right now I am putting on my ‘Boss’ hat.” “Jack, You are fired. I’ve told you repeatedly that it is unacceptable to treat our employees that way. Gather your things and clear out by 5 o’clock today.”
Father waits a moment then says, “Now I am putting on my ‘Father’ hat. “Son, I heard you just lost your job. What can I do to help?”
This is an example of a father doing the right thing – even when it’s hard. And, deeply embedded in that is loving his son, no matter what.
Personally, I learned through unfortunate early detours off this path, that love means holding boundaries even under tremendous pressure to let them waver; that indulgent, excuse-making (so called) love is really toxic poison for the soul disguised as a sort of addictive candy.
Have you seen that at work? Think of Dudley in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The Dursley parents appeared to love and adore Dudley. However by being afraid of him and his tantrums, they dosed him with the drugs of indulgence, and puffed up self-importance until he became a self-centered bully. Dudley, in fact crossed so far over the line into grandiosity that he was impotent in the face of his true mortality, and simply useless in relationship with other human beings. This is not love at all – it is fear – truly love’s opposite. The Dursleys feared their son and mistook that intensity for love. That love-fear spectrum takes some discernment to navigate I reckon.
I’ve recently witnessed some of this heroic doing the right thing no matter what in big corporate deals. The outcomes have been purely amazing.
What about you? In your experience:
When have you done the right thing, even when it was hard?
Can you see your own love, truth and fierce ownership in those acts?
What internal or external conflicts did you overcome to do that right thing?
How did it end up?
Finally – what in your life is calling for you to do the right thing – even though it’s hard??
Send me a note and tell me about your experience with this.
To your continued amazingness,
© 2015 Focused Leadership Consulting and Lisa E. Hale, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.