The other night I got to enjoy hearing from a friend that she was experiencing the moment in which she realized she had reached a finish line in life. This particular finish line she reached is one that can be a long and difficult one to finally cross. In fact, unfortunately, for far too many of us, the difficulty of reaching this finish line is one that we often opt not to try to cross.
However, more on that finish line in a minute...
In my friend's case, her story of success was one that actually began well over a year in the past. It was a story that began with her choosing to do the right thing.
She did the right thing when she could have simply been silent, and the truth is most people probably would have done just that. The only time they would have discussed this particular topic was in instances where conversations start out, “Now don’t say anything, but girl let me tell you what I just found out..."
However, my friend did the right thing, because sleeping dogs lie only when you don’t make noise.
My friend’s actions were not done out of spite or intent to harm anyone. Rather, it was quite the opposite and her actions were done our of are and concern. In fact, her intent was to prevent anyone from being hurt.
Unfortunately, in return for her willingness to do what was right, she was met with scorn, scrutiny, and attempts to shame her for being “wrong.”
Ultimately, at this point my friend found herself facing particular sobering position, She found herself having to accept the words of the 5th Century B.C. military strategist Sun Tzu.
“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
Essentially, my friend had pushed the fight as far as she could without going further and ultimately suffering defeat. As a result, she had to accept that it was out of her hands now; and though she was not successful in achieving her goal, she could at least take satisfaction that she had indeed done the right thing.
In truth, for the person who lives by their direction of the moral compass and strives to maintain a constant direction towards ethical north the satisfaction of “doing the right thing” still feels like defeat in these instances; because for the person with a good heart, “I told you so,” never brings joy, when you know that eventually something "bad" that has happened could have been avoided in the first place.
Ultimately, for my friend, vindication would come well over a year after she first spoke up and did the right thing. Thankfully for my friend, her absolution came in the form of undeniable confirmation of what she said, with no one having to be hurt for it be proven true.
Now, there were many finish lines my friend could have tried to reach the moment she encountered the particular problem she faced. However, the one she chose to race towards was the only one in which the just desserts come with sprinkles and cherry on top, and taste righteously sweet.
But more on those finish lines in a minute...
Whether we realize it or not, we all will run many races in life.
We each run one overall marathon that starts at the moment we are born, and ends only when we reach a final unknown place. In truth, the overall race of life we run, is actually a relay race; whereby at the conclusion of each of our individual race’s, we leave the distance we’ve traveled to those generations still hoofing it out on life’s road.
Essentially, the overall race of life is both an individual event and a collective sport, in that we all share our progress with others by handing off a baton saying, “This is as far as I got, now it’s your turn.” Our next generations take that baton and continue down the paths of humanity’s progression.
Since none of us really know when we will reach our overall finish line in life, how we travel along life’s paths is by competing in a countless number of smaller races along the way. In the end, it is these smaller races that determine who we are as individuals and eventually how far will go.
Equally, these smaller races are also the places that most us end up tripping, falling and shorting our distances in life's path.
Inherently, it isn’t our fault that we often fail at these smaller races. Our Achilles heel comes from the fact that the overall race of life is the most confusing competition in the world. See the race of life is eventually measured by how FAR one travels and not by how FAST we actually get anywhere.
Moreover, in the race of life you aren’t actually competing against anyone else. Instead, you are always in a contest with yourself.
Now, when it comes to the finish line my friend recently reached, this was a point that is only encountered when a person has the clarity to recognize that the race of life, isn’t about speed, but distance; and ultimately, this is a line that can only be crossed when a person discovers:
“Nice guys/girls finish last.” However, nice guys/girls finish best in the end…
In the example with my friend, over a year ago, she found herself facing a choice to make when it came to which direction she should go. Ultimately, deciding on which direction we should take in life is not something that by any means is rare. In fact, whether we realize it or not, the choice of “which direction” is a decision that all of us face every single day.
Do we choose to go down the path of what is ethically and morally right, and accept that often times this path is going to be difficult and filled with obstacles or rough terrain? Or do we opt for a shortcut, that we all know is basically cheating, however, the road seems so much smoother and easy to navigate?
Unfortunately, because we are human, our egos often take over and therefore the quickest way to get to victory lane feels like the obvious best path to go.
This is especially true when the bulk of us have been taught since childhood that success comes from being in “First Place.” As a result, the path of what is right ends up being a road less traveled - A distant trail that lays off the beaten path.
Often what will cause our willingness to take shortcuts increases when we end up sneak around a turn or two and suddenly find ourselves winning many small races and celebrating that we have been able to move through life with such ease. So what if maybe we cheated a little bit along the way.
“Ha! Those nice/girls and their moral virtues are still stuck way back behind me! It is not that I am a cheat, yet a winner and they are simply losers who enjoy their inferior paths.”
We enjoy what we see as the spoils of our swiftness, however, as a result, we don't realize that our arrogance is actually slowly narrowing our vision. With eyes tightly constrained, laser-focused on the next prize we shall reap, we never even see that obstacle that devilishly grins at us as it lies smack dab in the middle of our paths.
Now, you can call me a liar if you like. Assuredly, any of us can think of a countless number of life’s “runners” who are juiced up on immorality and skating down life’s footpaths while bathed in gold. However, trust me… that sinister little obstacle lying in the road… is one that none of us can ever really avoid.
The path of the righteous is beset on all sides by the inequities of man. Yet, as the virtuous trudge along through the struggles, all of those who chose "speed" and not "distance," will eventually come tumbling past; grasping at anything they can to try and break their ultimate fall.
How far one will go back and how hard they will land, ultimately depends on how much they were willing to cheat the rules in the race of life. As far as they thought they were ahead, they may suddenly find themselves seven-fold backward.
However, for those who opted for the difficult and less traveled roads, they are the ones that discover it actually isn’t that nice guys/girls finish last, or even best. Rather, by the simple universal laws of life’s race, nice guys/girls are the only ones who actually finish “First” at all.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to call it the “Devil and Angel” on either shoulder or "Two Opposing GPS’s" telling you which way to go, that deceptive advisor that is your accuser will always speak so much louder and clearer when it comes to deciding what to do.
One has to choose to want to hear their virtuous guide. A person must be willing to accept that taking the right path in life, indeed will often be a long and very difficult road.
One must recognize, in the end when it comes to the race of life, you will not be measured by how much farther you are than someone else. Instead, you are actually only competing against yourself.
Therefore, when you choose to get ahead at the expense of others, you are only but lining up obstacles and preparing for your eventual downfall.
At the end of the day, when my friend shared the story of how she eventually reached “victory lane,” I was both happy for her and yet also encouraged for myself.
Every day when I choose to go down what I consider to be the ethical and moral paths of life, I am constantly reminded these are complex and at times extremely challenging tracks.
At times it is easy to feel overwhelmed and consider taking shortcuts or even just simply sitting down and saying, “I’m good right here where I’m at. I don’t want to push through these trails anymore.”
Yet, then there are times, like in the story my friend shared, that I reminded our success is measured by how far we get, and not by how swiftly we get where we think would like to be.
Most importantly, by being encouraged by my friend’s story of eventual success, I am reminded that overall race of life is actually bigger than any one of us who are in it. As I said before, we aren’t competing against each other, instead, it is WITH each other that we actually all compete.
Now, my friend might only consider she chose that tough path of what is right in the specific context of the problem she happened to face. However, what she may not have ever known is that she didn’t just tackle those obstacles for her situation, rather she also blazed a trail that reminded me the finish lines we seek actually do suddenly emerge. Sometimes when we least expect it.
In the end, throughout all of history, the only way that the paths for what is right have ever been cleared, has been by the willingness of others to go down the tough roads and blaze trails so that others may more easily come behind them. For me, I try to choose the tough paths in hopes that they are treks our children don’t have to also one day have to face.
In the story, my friend shared a “win” that was for her, yet in actuality, it was also a reminder for me as well. In actuality, none of us really just win for ourselves when do what is right. Rather, the success trickles down and motivates us all, and eventually, that is how we all can win in the end.
Be the change you want, because you will be the motivation someone else needs.