I sat one morning, contemplating choices over my vanilla spice latte. I had struggled through a particular situation for years because I felt strongly that I was called to it, that this particular path I strode in my middle years and every pebble on it was a significant part of the journey that God lay before me the moment I was conceived. I believe in free will and that God allows us choices, but I also believe I owe Him my best so I continually endeavored to find success with the monumental task I had at hand. Friends implored me to reevaluate my circumstances as they couldn’t fathom that God would intentionally have me carry on and continue to suffer in such mire. I, like they, believed He wants His best for me yet I felt strongly compelled, so compelled in fact that on some level I didn’t feel free to choose to turn away from that place. This self-imposed calling became an obligation and the obligation bordered on obsession. I felt bound to stay, fight, work, do the ‘right’ thing even as I was wronged in the process.
That led me to wonder… Why is it that we as women, particularly southern women, seem to be born with an innate need to do what’s ‘right’ at any cost – ‘right’ by society, ‘right’ by our families – even at times to our own detriment? Who decides what is ‘right’? And is what’s ‘right’ for you, ‘right’ for me? It’s drummed into us practically from birth that this is what is required of us to be a proper lady, and by that let me be clear that I mean “accepted”, we must always consider others first. Men don’t seem to suffer from this affliction. Is it really ‘right’ to always put others before yourself? The FAA would beg to differ. Flight Attendants specifically tell you that in case of emergency to put the mask on yourself first so that you can then tend to those around you. God forbid though that a woman take time for herself and put family, friends, work, etc. on the back burner for a bit. We’re supposed to be utterly selfless or we’re… we’re… what? What are we if we put ourselves first for a change? A social pariah, a bitch, at the very least selfish, right? And what happens if we dare cross that social line of proper etiquette? Will we be sucked off the planet, have our ‘lady card’ revoked, be shunned by society?? Pishaw.
How ‘right’ is it to do what’s expected for the wrong reason? Shouldn’t we do that which we have a genuine heartfelt compassion for doing, not just what someone else thinks we should? If it’s in your heart to have dinner waiting on the table for your husband when he gets home from work, then, by all means, do so. But if you begrudgingly prepare his meal while pondering which poison might be least likely detected in an autopsy, then I’m thinking you should reconsider your efforts. If we don’t do what’s ‘right’, does that make us ‘wrong’? I don’t necessarily think so.
But, if we don’t do what’s ‘right’, then what’s left? What’s left of society’s ideal that we’ve been trained and expected to live up to? What’s left of our self-image, and hasn’t that been bruised enough? We might actually have to decide for ourselves what ‘right’ is. Seems like a simple enough concept. Yet I think, for me anyway, I allowed the ease of having ‘right’ defined for me guide my path. We’re ‘supposed’ to do this or that because our culture, society, families dictate it. My grief should only last so long and then I’m supposed to move on or I’m looked down upon as weak for wallowing in self-pity. My successes are great, but I’m not supposed to celebrate them and/or myself too much or I’m seen as self-centered or conceited. I can’t possibly say no to any request or I’m not a good friend because a good friend always says yes. And God forbid I should stand up for myself lest I be labeled a bitch. Following those societal constructs is certainly easier than blazing one’s own trail. But is that ‘right’?
I found my way out of that situation all those years ago and came to the conclusion that maybe what God had in mind when he charted this path for me way back then was for me to find my own ‘right’, even if others think it’s wrong, and whole-heartedly choose it regardless of what other’s think. As I continue to contemplate my own choices with maybe a little greater insight, I beseech you; determine what’s ‘right’ for you, shake off the fear of being labeled ‘wrong’, hold true to what’s left, and define your own path, because that, my friend, is what’s ‘right’.