The best time to do what is right is before we are told to, but doing so after we are told to is a close second.
The most important trait we can pass down to our children is a moral compass, the ability to know and do what is right even when peers, society at large, or the opportunities in front of them urge them to do the opposite. We do not want our children to only do what is right when it is convenient, popular, or in their immediate best interest. We want our children to have integrity, to understand and to choose what is good and true, and to do so even when no one is watching, when there is no reward for doing so, and even when doing so may cause them short-term social, psychological, or financial suffering.
Of course, no one wants their children to suffer, but doing the right thing is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it is quite difficult and even painful. Often, doing the right thing means missing out on what others are enjoying and experiencing with seeming impunity, it means missing out on being cool or popular, and it means missing out on fast and easy material or financial gain.
Doing what is right means taking the longview on life, on who we are, on who we want to be, and on what we want our reputation, our legacy, and our future prospects to be. Children do not have the ability to think into the future like this, they are not capable of thinking past want, need, and desire, and their minds often blur the lines between what is true, what is right, and what is best with what they imagine, with the stories they make up, and with what they see from others. Morality and forethought are signs of maturity, but they are learned over time, both explicitly from what we say and implicitly from what we do as parents, teachers, and leaders.
Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.
All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh (artist unknown, unless otherwise noted).
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