Wrestling With An Existential Question

When I was in my 20’s, I uncovered a difficult question that I asked of myself… and answering that question posed quite the challenge. Which is better: to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, or to do the wrong thing for the right reasons?

I drove myself crazy trying to figure it out. I also drove many people around me crazy, as I tried to see if anyone could come up with a suitable answer and the reasoning for it.

In the end, I accepted that maybe, in an ironic sort of way, there was no right answer. I don’t think that I had evolved enough as a person to grasp that the question existed between two other absolutes: doing the right thing for the right reasons or doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

After several years, I matured enough to ask the question differently. Instead of asking, “Which is better?” I asked myself, “Which is more noble?” Still the answer eluded me. The best that I could come up with was that it just depended on what might be appropriate in any given situation. I had to accept the ambiguity of it all.

Eventually, and not too long ago, I experienced an epiphany and the answer became clear: doing the right thing for the right reasons is not only the noblest thing to do – it is the only noble thing to do.

I believe that at our core, as human beings, the majority of people are fundamentally “good.” Sure, there are exceptions and accounts throughout history of pure unadulterated evil, and I recognize that it truly does exist, but overall, I believe those are exceptions.

Assuming that we are inherently “good” it would stand to reason that anytime a decision involves a trade-off of “wrong”…be it the wrong thing or the wrong reason… it goes against the principles and values of our core beings.

Choosing to do the right thing for the right reasons is in alignment with who we really are, and it will always feel “right” as a result. Whenever we make a lesser choice involving some element of wrong, I guarantee that it will not resonate with the core of our humanity. The decision will always feel “off” somehow.

Now, it would be naïve to think all of the issues and challenges in life fall so easily into right and wrong categories with right and wrong answers. No, life is far too complicated to be that absolute. If I had to guess, the opportunities in life to do the right thing for the right reasons are rare, but they do exist.

This question that has perplexed me for years will linger on throughout my life. As I continue evolving, I expect to learn and experience things that make me look at the question a little harder, or a little differently. But, for now, I am satisfied with knowing the answer as I currently understand it. In order to be happy, to live a life without regret, we must always choose to do the right thing for the right reason. Always.

Tell me… Have you dealt with such a question in your life? What was it for you? Have you been able to solve it, or do you still wrestle with it?

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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