Don’t pat yourself on the back…
“You should never be proud of doing the right thing, unhealthy you should just do the right thing.” In 1958, order the south was legally segregated and Coach Dean Smith, online who spoke those words previously quoted, was the basketball coach for the University of North Carolina. At a time when segregation and racial hatred was both a demonstrated practice and a valid cultural norm, Dean Smith quietly pushed against the social boundary lines by the life he lived. One such example is when Coach Smith took an African American deacon from his church to a local restaurant at a time when the owner of that restaurant could have legally refused to serve them. Because of his tremendous influence and power as a UNC head coach, both the owners and the patrons of the restaurant “tolerated” having the two men dine there, effectively integrating a popular public space in the Jim Crow south.
Dean was courageous enough to challenge racism and white supremacy even though it could have come at a great cost to him and to his family. The university’s board of regents, the athletic director, boosters, parents, other coaches, and the old regime of southern traditionalists could have reprimanded or ostracized him, or even taken away his job and position. Dean Smith never wanted to be recognized or applauded for quietly integrating public restaurants in and around the Chapel Hill community. Instead, he ascribed to the belief that when you do something right, you should not need or seek recognition for it.
The process of recognizing that something must be done when you are in a position to do it is rarely an easy undertaking. And yet, we must not shrink away from our responsibility to take action once we have had that recognition. It takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and take a stand for what is right. Once you step up to the plate and take action you should feel good about it, no doubt. But what you should never do is expect to be congratulated by others, or give yourself the proverbial “pat on the back” for doing what was always in your power to do— when given recognition through a raised consciousness and the opportunity to take action, that is exactly what you should do.
There are still so many things in our society, community, and country that could be significantly challenged and changed if only people of good conscience would stand up and take action. Be the change you want to see in the world—said Mahatma Gandhi, and each individual has a responsibility and opportunity to change the world by their individual actions in it. Alternately, that same individual can actually cause serious damage by refusing to act at all, particularly when they remain silent and compliant because they do not want to see and are too afraid to act.
Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do…not because you expect to be congratulated on your good deeds. By the way, you first have to stop ignoring the opportunities that cross your path everyday…open your eyes. There is a lot to do and we need everybody to pitch in, in order to get it done!
Up Next Week: Micro Aggressions Can Kill You…