In Retrospect

“Righteousness is easy in retrospect.” ~Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

How true is that?!? More often than not the right thing to do is the least popular thing to do. Politicians find themselves between a rock and a hard place on this point as reelection concerns are often pitted against the need to support unpopular but clearly necessary legislation.

If you’ve ever had to take an unpopular stand with your family because it was the right thing to do you likely faced chastisement, disdain and perhaps even rejection. For whatever reason, mankind tends to prefer the comfort of the known to the discomfort that often accompanies the road of integrity, which, incidentally, is typically the road less traveled.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” ~Alan Simpson

To that I would add: “…neither friends nor family, worldly possessions nor reputation.” Your value as an individual requires that your character stand above all these. I repeat. Your value as an individual requires that your character stand above all these.

If righteousness requires that you take a stand, then stand! Don’t apologize. Don’t be afraid. Don’t lord it over those around you. If the stand you are taking is the right thing to do, you will feel good about yourself, you will be at peace with yourself. And that, my friends, is the perfect starting point.

I’ve made decisions in my life that took years to come to fruition. You must be careful not to set fixed expectations as to how and when the harvest should appear, for what you send out in righteousness rarely comes back in the size, shape or timing you anticipated.

Many people have nullified what could have been tremendous if not miraculous blessings because they reacted unnecessarily to the time between the planting and the harvest. Reactive proclamations like “Well I didn’t think it would take so long to work out” or “I made the right choice and I have lost so much” turn into attitudes and actions that abort the creative process.

While it is true that righteousness is easy in retrospect, I would be remiss were I not to mention a balancing factor. The French have a proverb which clothes this balancing point nicely: “Une bonne conscience est un doux oreiller(“A good conscience is a soft pillow”). Even if the world turns against you, if you have done the right thing and you know it you will be at rest with yourself, a rare state of being that can only be described as “priceless.”

To William Lloyd Garrison’s question posed over a century-and-a-half ago…”Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion?” I reply: absolutely not!

10 thoughts on “In Retrospect

  1. DeeDee

    Thank you, Gregg. I love the French proverb. No matter the discomfort during the stand, if one has the soft pillow of a good conscience at the end of the day then it is worth it!


  2. Lady Leo

    There are many examples of righteousness, that as I read about them, I was so deeply grateful for the person that held the line. I can think of a few historical instances that we all should be aware of. One should be common knowledge to all school children but sadly is not.
    When George Washington took over as leader of our new army he was told we had 360 barrels of gun powder; the British were under siege in Boston with our forces 1 mile away. They expected Washington to go in and get the war over in a matter of weeks.
    When Washington arrived in Concord he discovered they actually had 32 barrels of gun powder. They had far less soldiers than he was told, they were out manned 2 to 1. His dilemma was, everyone expecting him to take action right away but he realized he couldn’t attack because he’d lose and that would have been the end of our bid for independence.
    He had to wait for 11 months and he could tell NO ONE the truth about their situation. If word got to the British (which at the time many people were on the fence) they would have attacked immediately.
    That sounds hard enough to handle but Washington’s “friends” were like rats on a sinking ship. They vilified him, called him a coward and many tried to take over his command (which he would have gladly given it to them). Amid all this he realized he just had to take it and hope that things would change for the better.
    I don’t do it justice here but Washington’s reputation was so precious to him and he realized that to do what was right for the country he had to watch his name be ruined.
    What a great example of righteousness. The war took 8 years and this is only one instance of many that we owe to George Washington’s righteousness.
    I am truly thankful they didn’t have “wikkileaks” then or we’d all be chipping in for Prince Williams wedding.
    Great post Gregg, thanks.


  3. Doug

    I have felt the sting of being ostracized by friends and coworkers for the path I chose. It took another 15 years to see the results but it did come ’round. The test of time is usually unbiased.
    Great post.


  4. Foxglove

    Some thinkers in the field of contemporary physics and psychology talk about how one’s cumulative conscience produces a resultant ‘field’ about the individual which then either attracts similars or more or less repels dissimilars. And it can happen in non-linear ways as well. Plus the relative strength of these fields have been thought to be along a logarithmic continuum, where something like ‘righteousness’ as you talk about it, something that adheres to immutable principle and truth, has far greater force than something like pride or egotism……something like how 1 small candle can dispel the seeming immense darkness of a large dark room or hall. Your post just got me thinking…..


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  6. I. Kearney

    What an awesome start to the morning! “Righteousness is easy in retrospect.” ~Arthur Schlesinger Jr. – I love this and it’s so true! You can’t undo what is in the past, but we are the masters of our hearts and minds in the moment – salute to righteousness!


  7. Colin

    This is a fundamental requirement in the living of a successful life. On the plus side (apart from being at peace with yourself) you will not be shaken by the winds of chance, but will have a firm foundation in the path you have chosen. There might be those that are intimidated that you can make the hard, right choice, but their howls of indignation mean less than the yipping of a scared chihuahua. They are indignant because your choice of the righteous path makes them realize that they didn’t have the guts to make the right choice. You see it time and time again through history. Thanks for writing about this on your blog, because I feel that the more people understand how the process works, the more people might be able to stand when they make the right choice that challenges the people around them to do the same.


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