Are we doing things right? Are we more concerned with doing what we are doing the right way, or with doing the right things?
Will Richardson wrote a great piece that explored this subject when it comes to education. He offers some thought provoking ideas and questions about how we do (or don’t do) education in the US.
Here’s just one question from the very beginning of the article:
Do we do the things we do because they’re better for kids or because they are easier for us? For instance: separating kids by age in school. Is that something we do because kids learn better that way? Or do we do it because it’s just an easier way organizing our work? I think all of us know the answer to that.
He’s got plenty more questions like this. Questions we’d be asking if we really wanted to improve our education system, instead of just rearrange the deck chairs while we fight about who’s in charge of the ship.
What about other areas of life though? How about in your family? Are you more focused on doing things right, rather than on doing the right things? Do you even know what that means when it comes to your family? One example – a general question. Are you spending time together as a family? There’s a way to do this right and a right way to do this. Doing this right means that you all happen to be in the same room together for hours, but you either ignore each other or miss the opportunity to grow in relationship because all you really care about is the entertainment that is being shown on some screen in front of you. The right way to do it would be to pay attention to each other, do things together, talk, listen, etc.
This can be applied to so many areas of life. A book could be written on this concept as it relates to politics. Politics is an area that excels in doing things right, rather than doing the right thing.
And we could apply it to church too. Unfortunately, there are plenty of churches that focus on doing things right as opposed to doing the right thing.
The reality is that doing things right is much safer. It doesn’t require us to rethink what we are doing. It allows us to think that what we are doing is right. We’re in control, we only need to tweak what we are doing. Focusing on doing things right means we get to point at people who have new ideas and say that they are only interested in rocking the boat. We can blame people for wanting to create chaos. We can say that we actually changing because we are doing what we have always done, but just a bit differently – better actually. Focusing on doing things right is more concerned with being right.
When we focus on doing the right things, we approach life differently. We are open to the possibility that what we are doing is less than ideal, maybe even wrong or dangerous or divisive. We let go of the desire to control everything. We open ourselves to new ideas and new people. We become vulnerable. It can be scary – everything we knew to be true might not be true anymore. We are open to change and seeing possibilities. We are open to thriving and life. We are open to the possibility that more change will be required. We are open to the possibility that our vision might actually become reality. That can be scary too. Doing the right thing means letting go of being right. That might sound contradictory, but it’s actually pretty accurate.
So, what are you focused on – doing things right or doing the right thing? Or is it something else? Because we all know, life isn’t as simple as just two choices. And it’s never just that clear and easy. Life is complicated. And you know what – that’s ok. Even if you are thinking about this question, you’re moving in the right direction. Focus on what matters in life. And I’ll tell you from personal experience – it’s not being right or having the right answers. It’s knowing that you don’t, yet still moving forward in love, patience, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.