Thursday, June 2, 2011

Being Right and Doing the Right Thing

My dear friend Cathy was telling my daughter Shelby and me recently about an Epiphany of sorts that she had while making Deviled Eggs.  She explained this to us in the following way:

"I spent a lot of time this afternoon struggling to peel hard boiled eggs and became very frustrated because the eggs were too fresh.  She further explained that egg shells peel off easily from eggs that are about to expire as air seeps into the porous outer shells over time.  Something about all of that helps to loosen the shell after boiling.  Fresh eggs are then not 'seasoned' enough in this way to work well, as the egg and the shell have not yet begun to separate.  It is as if the fresh egg still clings to the shell." 

As with most people who process thoughts with the most clarity while working with their hands (Cathy is an artist who works with many mediums, including clay) she explained that for her the whole experience soon became a metaphor for faith.  She went on to explain this as follows.

"In the beginning of a faith journey we sometimes are like the fresh egg and want to cling to the protective shell and as time passes we start going through a transforming process that allows us to begin to let go of that protective shell and become freer in vulnerability rather than closed up in fear."

Cathy knows that I like to write, so she asked if I would write about her experience somewhere.  Those who also love to write will know what I mean when I say that once an idea starts forming, it will not let you rest until you release it.  Hmmm..."release it"  sounds like an egg story to me.

I have been "pondering"...I like that word, don't know why...but I have been pondering off and on for years now something someone told me which was "there is often a difference between "being right" and "doing the right thing."  This has become one of my personal guiding principles.  Something about Cathy's egg metaphor initiated a dance of sort in my mind with her egg story and this guiding principle.  That following is what surfaced for me in all of this.

"Maybe 'being right' is often what we need to feel when we are the fresh egg.  We cling to 'being right' sometimes as if it were the protective shield.  It is often a very precarious shield though as it almost always assumes that in order to be right, anyone who doesn't agree, is then by definition, not right.  The conflict that often ensues between 'right and not right' results in something similar to a damaged egg as the egg shell is forcibly peeled, before it has had time to season." 

On the other hand --'doing the right thing' is often a wholly different choice.  It requires some seasoning to discern fully what the 'right thing to do might be' through allowing 'air, prayer, silence, light...' whatever the transforming property might be, to penetrate the protective shell so that we might release it in the freedom of vulnerability, humility and faith.  It is in this place of freedom that we can more easily know and freely choose "doing the right thing" over "being right" in every moment and every choice.  What we find when we are able to do this often is that like the well seasoned egg, we can let go of our protective shell without inflicting or incurring damage. 

Guess I better move on from the egg metaphors for now though because I can just imagine someone thinking "well once it loosens it's shell the egg is devoured!"  I'll have to see if Cathy is willing to go back to the kitchen to ponder that next part of the journey--the obvious immediate benefit of that for me of course is more delicious deviled eggs to eat.

I can tell you though as I personally move into this more seasoned time of life..this simple guiding principle has served me well over and over again.  "Doing the right thing", although not always the easiest choice to make, is often the most liberating choice.  It is another way that I am learning to trust the mystery.

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