Sometimes inaction leads to worse things than doing what you know is right. Sometimes doing the right thing feels like it would put you in grave danger. I would be remiss if I didn’t say this towards the front of this post. There IS a scriptural directive for all of us that profess faith in Christ. We all know it. But we often tuck it aside as though it doesn’t apply in our particular situation.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:13-17
There’s a lot there. And this is going to be a long post. So, hold on and try to stay with me. In an effort to not make this post into a full book, I’ll focus on the last verse of that passage. Paraphrased: If you know the right thing to do and you don’t do it, you’re wrong. Ouch. I mean, come on, who of you reading this can honestly, and I do mean honestly say that you have never not done what you know is right? I know that’s a double negative. It’s there for emphasis grammar Karen. Seriously though. That’s a rough piece of scripture to digest without taking some Pepto. For me it is anyway.
So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin.James 4:17
Rather than telling you a story from my life… because I could, but I’d probably make some people angry… I’ll tell you a story about my friend Micah. (Real names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.) Micah worked at a large organization. Micah worked there for a long time. He was no slouch. Micah is very intelligent, very personable, has a great family, and is very invested in his organization. About a year ago, Micah got a new boss. We’ll call him Leo. Leo is new to the organization and has come in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder from all accounts. He is not kind and his words are often laced with condescending tone and just all around mean spiritedness. He doesn’t recognize and respect that Micah has successfully done his job for almost two decades. Leo just wants everything done his way regardless of if it’s the right way or not. And Leo doesn’t really have a legitimate understanding of what Micah does because most of what Leo says shows his ignorance.
Micah is a good guy and tries to make things work. As time goes on though, Micah starts feeling beat down and so does his team. It gets so bad that others outside of the direct department notice. Several have made comments to Micah about Leo’s bad attitude. Eventually, Micah has staff that are getting trashed by Leo in very nasty, hostile ways and Micah decides enough is enough. Now at this point, you have to be thinking that if Micah does anything, he’s going to get fired. After all, Leo is his boss. So, what can he do? Well, Leo has a boss. And Micah did try to go to Leo directly and solve it, but Leo wasn’t interested. So, Micah has one choice left. His choice is simple. He can either go to Leo’s boss with the situation and risk getting fired. Or, Micah can stay where he is at being hounded and treated badly by Leo until Micah gets angry and gets fired, or Micah quits because he just can’t take it anymore. Either way Micah decides to go, what does he have to lose, right? Wrong.
If Micah decided to just sit there and wait it out, he is making the wrong decision. And, he knows it. He knows that allowing Leo to continue on treating people this way is unacceptable. And while Micah could just up and leave and let it be someone else’s problem, he knows that’s not right either. Not for someplace that Micah is so invested in. He cares about the success of the organization and everything Leo is doing is destroying the credibility of the organization if it’s allowed to continue. Micah knows his only option is to take the issue above Leo’s head since Leo refused to work it out or even acknowledge that his actions were creating such a toxic environment.
The nitty gritty of what occurred in the confrontation is unnecessary. Let’s just say that Micah discovered that the leadership of his organization was not willing to correct the wrong. They were also willing to dismiss his nearly two decades of faithful service over all of it, all the while acknowledging that Micah didn’t do anything wrong. Yeah, not the place Micah needed to stick around anyway. And it sucks for Micah. He’s been there a long time. More than many people in his line of work. And he’s very rooted there with his family. And Micah went into it with his eyes wide open that the end result could be what it was, his departure from the organization. But, Micah did what was right. He got to the fork in the road and decided to do the right thing. At this point, the onus of the future of the organization is on the leadership because they chose to ignore the toxic situation Leo was creating. And they will pay the price eventually. Leo’s behavior won’t stay in the department he’s in. It will spread like a disease.
Let me guess… the title of “What have you got to lose?” now seems like A LOT! Well, maybe. But here’s what I know. Micah did what he knew was right. He did it with all respect and humility possible. And yes, he had to depart from the organization that he loved so much. But now, he has multiple options for where to go to provide for his family. God provided for him. Micah did the right thing and is not being punished for it. Maybe man wanted to punish him (his former leadership), but God has other plans for Micah.
Micah’s story is not isolated. I have been through this type of scenario multiple times in my life. I’d like to tell you that I’ve always made the right decision. But that would be a lie. And I have suffered greatly as a result of not stepping up to the plate and doing what was right when I knew it was time to. I own that. I have to live with that. Micah made a touch choice. And in worldly terms, it may seem like he lost something. I challenge that he has gained so much more than he lost. He gained respect from so many around him that saw how he endured the trial. He gained wisdom that his former organization wasn’t what he thought it was and it turns out not be a place that he wanted to be associated with anymore. He’s gained the respect of others that have seen his handling of the situation and have offered him opportunities. Micah has dealt with some emotions along the way. He has learned that he shouldn’t just accept ill treatment from someone just because they have a title. Most of all, Micah did what he knew was right and he will never look back and regret that.
So, I’ll say again… when it comes to doing the right thing, what do you have to lose?