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Wednesday, February 09, 2005 

Choose the Right

When I was in high school I had a CTR ring. This symbol, that I should always "Choose the Right" was supposed to be a constant reminder to make the right decisions. More often than not, though, it was just a way to identify the Mormon kids.

This one kid I knew would always ask me if I could ever choose the Left, instead, so I didn't go around in circles. The future math teacher in me explained to him that you can still get places by taking three right turns for every left turn you would make... it just takes a lot longer.

Doing the right thing is sometimes more difficult that doing the wrong thing. However, the degree of difficulty of doing the "right" thing is totally based on your personal definition of "right" and "wrong."

My definition of doing what's right meets some pretty basic, but stringent guidelines.
  1. Don't hurt anyone.
  2. Don't hurt yourself.
  3. Try to leave things better than you found them.
  4. Try to make yourself a better person.
These are very basic, but that's my whole morality system. The simplicity should mean that it's easy to follow, but I still make some decisions that don't meet these guidelines... exactly.

For instance, I blog about my coworkers. While this may be a poor decision on my part, I rationalize that as long as they don't know about it and I only report absolute fact in discussion them, that no harm can come of it. If they did find out about it, I'm sure that they would be very hurt, but since everything I've written is a fact, I simply enjoy the catharsis it provides me.

Am I hurting myself when I drink? Technically alcohol is poison to your body and the feelings that result from it are just symptoms of that. My brother once asked me if I drank, and when I said, "Sometimes," he proceeded to lecture me on how a single drink could do me harm. Oh well... I enjoy drinking, do it in moderation and at socially appropriate times, and don't endanger others. To me, it's the same as eating chocolate, which is also not very good for you.

I believe that I leave things better than I found them. I pick up litter. I adopt animals from shelters. I teach at a school where 90% of the students receive free or reduced lunch (a key indicator of poverty in US schools nationwide). Yet... there always seems like there's more that I can do. I've actually had to cut back on some responsibilities at work because I was trying to do so much that my teaching was suffering.

Making "yourself a better person is vague," but the way I do this is by working on doing all of the things above better and by continuing to educate myself. I think that I'm a good person but am all too aware of my faults. There, too, lies an endless amount of "right" choices to make to make myself a better person.

I have some hard and fast rules (not to harm) and some that are more general (make things better). The commandments in the LDS religion fall into these two categories as well, but there are more specifics and they are more stringent. I think I've lowered my degree of difficulty in choosing the right by leaving the church. The basic ideas are still the same, but some of the specifics where there are hard and fast rules, are no longer there for me.

I guess I decided to choose a few lefts, after all.

Choose the Right...
A symbol and phrase that we've grown up with.
Just this week I came to a huge realization, should I call it an epiphany?
When one or two "left turns" are taken, instead of having the opportunity to 'choose the right', unfortunately it often turns into choosing between 'sort of the right' vs. 'not at all the right', and then eventually down this path facing 'bad choice' vs. 'bad choice'.
In other words, due to cause/effect, choice/accountability, the 'effects' of left turns leaves you with undesirable choices.
(I hope this makes sense, it's late)
This has helped me to understand the choices of those around me. 

Posted by Jess

I think you have an impressive list of guidelines. If everyone would try and live by these guidelines we would all be much better off.  

Posted by Rebecca

Do the rules "Don't hurt anyone. Don't hurt myself." only have to do with things of a physical nature? Or does it extend to emotional aspects of life as well? I have a sneaking suspicion it does, since you mentioned not intending to hurt anyone through what you write. I thought it might be worth more discussion...

Great post! 

Posted by Suzie Petunia

I LOVE your list of guidelines! I think I'm going to print them out and post them in my office. They are a reminder of how all of us should try to live. 

Posted by Lizzy

Ah the CTR ring... I used to wear TWO. It didn't help.

Great post! (As always) 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

First, I had to laugh at your brother's lecturing on the evils of drinking.

Second, I was really impressed by your guidelines. Even though we may not practice, it's often interesting that on basic levels those who leave or choose to disasocciate themselves from their religious upbringing still hold true to core values on a basic level. 

Posted by herevilsister

I used to have a CTR ring in sign language. (The letters CTR 'spelled' out by the finger spelling signs.)

Am I cool or am I cool?

Kaycee's cool...I like her list of guidelines. If only people WOULD follow them...what a wonderful world it would be...

Great post. 

Posted by JP

JP: TWO? Thats Hella-cool! I had one on my mission, and I let some kid that was joining the church wear it to his baptism, and forgot about it, so the next week at church I called him on it, and the little thief denied ever having had it, my companion saw the fire bursting in my eyes, so he jumped in and had to drag me away. THIEF! Never worn one since some know it all member actually told me that the shield had to point up the finger cause thats the way the vein ran in your arm, so the shield was to send the "right" up your arm and into your body
I don’t like em, I don’t like em one bit!

I can not think of one thing “wrong” choice, minus eating chocolate of course, that if my mom knew I was doing it would not hurt her. Anything I do that is damaging to my own health, wealth, mental, spiritual, or any other aspect of my life would be damaging to my mother, (cause she loves her little baby).

You have four rules broken out, but what I see is two rules that were set out many years ago. When questioned which of the commandments was the greatest (do you see where I am going with this? Wink Wink nudge nudge if you know what I mean) Jesus answered, Love the Lord thy God, and the second one was similar to it, love thy neighbor.
Kaycee I see your four rules being summed up in those two. Of course if you do not believe in God, then more power to you to run willy-nilly.

Posted by Cameron

Cameron-We may not agree, but I just love your nay-saying around here.

I know that my mom loves me and that some of the things I do hurt her, but I can't live my life for anyone else. My and my mom's systems of morality are different. If yours and your mom's are the same, then I can see why that would work.

In 90% or more of the things I do each day, I could pass as a Mormon to anyone. It's the 10% of occaisional streams of verbal filth, random drunken bouts and the living in sin that certifies my non-Mormondom. Still, though, most of my moral system matched the Mormon way because it's how I was raised.

PS-I like how you called the kid you converted a loser. That's the kind of honest I respect. 

Posted by Kaycee

I love the controversy.

Kaycee, I think I understand what you are saying, but it seems like Cameron has an interesting point. If you define "Don't hurt anyone" to mean "Don't do anything that I think is wrong because I have to live my life for myself" then your logic is somewhat circular.

I think the intent is right and I see what you are saying. It's like the familiar saying, "First, do no harm". I think the problem is that the rules as stated probably oversimplify your own system of morality.

Posted by Christian F

Christian. You are smart.

They are rather simple and maybe that is a problem. Maybe I should have prioritized them. That might have made a difference. Or... maybe I shouldn't just try to be so very clever in my simplicity and realize that there really is a little more to it. 

Posted by Kaycee

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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