“The worst regret we have in life is not for the wrong things we did, but the thousands of right things we did for the wrong people”, see on a Facebook wall.
How do we define what is the right or wrong action? Life teaches us that right or wrong is not usually the black and white concept of our childhood. Our actions are mostly in the grey and other hues of black and white. The colour of our actions is governed by our experiences. To use a much overused cliché, “One man’s medicine is another man’s poison.”
Our religious beliefs usually define our concept of right and wrong. Come to think of it, the primary function of a religion is to define the rights and wrongs of our actions. To kill or lie is wrong. To love and respect is right. We are told, early on in our lives, that to do good is to please God and to do bad is to anger Him. Do good and we go to heaven, do bad and we book a ticket to hell. God urges us to do good, while it is Satan who gently, patiently nudges us towards doing bad.
Religions have always used the reward of heaven as the carrot on the stick.
But is doing good with mercenary intentions really the right thing to do? Are we doing good because we want to or because we want to go to heaven? Somehow, the concept of doing good to get the reward of life in heaven seems to subtract from the act of doing good. In fact, doing an action with the expectation of a reward is always the wrong thing to do.
The disappointment of parents in children who never repay “all the things we did for them” is a common one. From the moment a child is born, the parents’ lives revolve around the child. Long nights spent by the bedside of a sick child, or a child who is definite she has seen a ghost. Long evenings spent sitting alongside a child preparing for an important examination. Giving up an ice cream that the child wanted. Watching a silly animated movie instead of the latest gang war movie. Dropping the idea of a week in the Middle Eastern desert because it wouldn’t be a suitable holiday for a 5-year-old. Parents are forever making compromises, adjustments and investments for their children.
But is it being done out of love or because the parent expects something in return from the child?
Doing the right thing should be the reward in itself.
Doing the right thing for a specific reward is demeaning to the act.
You cannot do the right thing for the wrong person. It is just not possible. But the danger of doing the wrong thing for the right person always is.