The Book of Right
Posted by RycePapers | Filed under RycePapers
Occasionally in my consulting work people tell me they have a strong sense of right and wrong. I reply most everyone does: it is just that each of our ‘senses’ of right and wrong is somewhat different. One woman told me her co-workers were disrespectful (her judgment), and shouldn’t do certain things (in her opinion), and should do their job (as she defined proper employee behaviour). I saw how her expectations framed her view of the world.
As the Buddha said: All unhappiness comes from unmet expectations. We each have expectations, and recognizing them is a key life skill. With this recent consulting client, when she would share an opinion, I would reply: “Is that from The Book of Right?” It became a joke. Each of us is reading from The Book of Right yet where does our sense of right and wrong come from?
Many years ago I learned a model of human behavior. Think of it like a doughnut with outer crust, inner filling, and a centre. The outside crust is our actions and words, the things we say and do. Choosing what to say and do is driven by our feelings, the inner filling. Where those feelings come from is driven by our centre or core: our beliefs, our values, and our needs. Change comes from the core, not the outer crust. The people who were doing things wrong, in my client’s opinion, acted based on their core beliefs, reading from their Book of Right.
Cloaking ourselves with the expression ‘I have a strong sense of right and wrong’ excludes other people and judges them as possessing poor decision-making skills, or lacking in moral virtues. If we recognized a strong sense of right and wrong is often our opinion, and others may have another preference or style, then we can open up a more productive discussion, in my opinion ;-). I am not talking here about illegal, mean, or harmful behaviour as acceptable; I am focused on differing methods or styles. For example, my process is to pay my property taxes on the day I receive the bill, and you pay it on the due date. Is one method wrong?
Situations become complicated when we realize that sometimes our message, what we say, does not agree with what we do. Have you ever told people you were going to start a fitness program and didn’t? Or a savings program? Or eat more green vegetables? Long ago I decided it is hard enough for me to change myself, so changing other people is out of the question. I will present opinions or I will share ideas, and then my part in the interaction is over. Now it is your turn. As Byron Katie said: It is not your job to understand me, it is mine.
Just so I am clear, I am speaking here about preferences. I am not talking about people promising they will let your dog out while you are away for a day, and not showing up. That is intolerable. Commitments are different from one’s expectations of how something is done right.
If you want to see an excellent 8 minute presentation on expectations, here is the link.
This week a friend called me outlining trouble with a relative. I told my friend she is perfect and whole exactly as she is, and her feelings of being criticized were legitimate. Her relative was looking for her “flaws.” Many people are not conscious of the toxic load of expectations they dump on to others. I am grateful to a book called ‘The Sedona Method’ for showing me how to identify my feelings, pause, and then choose what to do with them. If we look to find the good in someone, we have less time for the negative. Who likes to be corrected? Who wants to be someone else’s continuous improvement project? Who feels enriched by another’s criticism?
Becoming conscious of what is driving your thoughts, words and deeds is a step in understanding why you do (or don’t do) what you do. You could start by examining the things in your life that repeatedly give you trouble. You may be surprised to discover it is not the world that is reading from The Book of Wrong, it’s just you may want to add a few new chapters in your version of The Book of Right.
That is what’s on my mind today, what do you think?