On Right-Doing

I listen to the news and read the papers.  I keep hearing assertions such as, “I am guilty of no wrong-doing.” Or, “I did nothing illegal, I broke no laws.”  In the last few months I’ve seen an epidemic of such claims.  And these comments are attributed to various people in the public eye: politicians, business people, entertainers.

I’d like to extend that earlier thinking here ever so briefly.

Recently I came across this in a book by Robert Gates[1], A Passion for Leadership:

“…through this searing experience, I came to realize that while I had done nothing wrong, I hadn’t done enough right.”

Jack Hawley[2] wrote this:

Dharma is often translated from Sanskrit into English as ‘right action.’  The proverb Dharma chara means ‘do the right thing.’  The translation is okay but the Westerner, from a culture so oriented to action, naturally emphasizes the word do and tends to under-emphasize the word right. …

The traits of courage, self-discipline, goodness, and doing right are the marks of collective character, just as they are of individual character.  Each organization must also follow its own collective heart and soul.

Breaking no laws is a dismally low standard to set – for oneself or for one’s organization. Avoiding wrong-doing is not much better. How much more challenging to each of us to set the clear goal of engaging in much more right-doing.

[1] Gates, Robert M. A Passion for Leadership. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

[2] Hawley, Jack. Reawakening the Spirit in Work.  New York: Fireside, 1993.