I was probably seven when, at a friend’s house, we found a nest full of baby birds. I looked at the birds and saw their necks stretched upward and their beaks wide open. It was the first time I’d seen baby birds up close. Curious, I touched one of the little birds to sooth it because they seem to be crying for something.
The next thing I knew, my friend’s mom scolded me for touching the bird. “The mother will never come back again!” she yelled. The younger me felt shame for doing something I didn’t know it was wrong.
Over the course of my life, I can list several other occasions when I did what I thought was right, but felt shamed or judged because what I did or said seemed wrong. These incidences have taught me that even when you do what you think is right, you might not get the outcome you hoped for.
Most life events have harsher outcomes than being shamed by a friend’s mom. Perhaps you’ve eaten healthy and have exercised and yet cancer is your diagnosis. Perhaps you trusted someone and they took advantage of you or abused you. Perhaps you’ve been faithful to your spouse, and yet they walked away from you and your family. Scenarios like these can make you feel discouraged, betrayed, angry, or hopeless.
How do you reconcile life’s disappointments when you did what you knew to be right? Consider the following suggestions for navigating the “life wasn’t supposed to be this way” narrative.
Tell yourself often that nothing in life is guaranteed, no matter what messages you get from other people, your faith community, or your own belief system. In between birth and death, good and bad things both happen to those who do what’s right and those who don’t.
While you don’t have control over certain outcomes, you do have choice. Choice and control are two different things. You may not have control over another person’s decisions or treatment of you, but you do have choice over how you respond, what you will tolerate, and the effect it has on you. You may not have control over your situation or diagnosis, but you have a choice over how you’ll live with the situation or condition and what attitude you’ll have
Do your best at the time and when you know different, do better. Life is a series of lessons from which to learn. We grow and mature from them when we let them shape us.
Give yourself grace. Peace comes when you know you did do what was right, even when others don’t or when the result is disappointing. Grace is undeserved kindness, a gift you give to yourself when the odds seem against you.
Many things in life have predictable, logical outcomes. But many do not. Matthew 5:45 says God allows the sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. When you do what’s right in God’s eyes and what’s best for the common good, you gain peace and a clear conscience. These choices will rarely steer you wrong.
What lessons have you learned from your “right” things gone wrong?