Peter is 31 years old, a hard worker, and devoted to his job. He is good at what he does and is quickly moving ahead of everyone in his office, even those who have been at the company for many more years. He is moving up to the highest levels of management in a large corporation. Someone with his skills and goals and ambitions is required to put in a lot of time on the job– seventy hour weeks are expected. But Peter loves what he is doing and does not mind the long hours. His hard work is what separates him from the rest of the pack. All he needs to do to achieve his dream of being a top executive is to continue to pour his whole life into his work.
But now a complication has entered Peter’s life. Two years ago his sister and her husband were killed in a car accident, leaving behind three children. At first, the children went to live with Peter’s other sister, who, like Peter, is not married. She managed for a time and Peter has given her some financial help. But now the sister needs more help. She cannot afford all the costs of three children, day care, rent, doctor bills, and everything else, along with the many times she has to miss work to care for sick kids, go to necessary appointments, meet with teachers, and do everything else that can go with caring for children. She asked Peter if they could all move in to his house for a while. She could save what she is now spending on rent, and, would have a little help on hand. Peter is a good man and quickly agreed to let them move in. But now, after a few months, things are getting difficult. Peter is learning that three kids can take a lot of time– time away from work to pick this one up here, or take that one there, or just sit with them for a while so the sister can go get groceries. The sister is still doing the bulk of it, but Peter had not been used to any interruptions at all, and he is now feeling the pressure. And his boss was starting to notice that Peter isn’t as available to work the endless hours like had always been before.
I read about Peter in a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger titled How Could You Do That? Schlessinger is a psychologist and author, and for a long time had a radio call-in talk show. She does not talk much about finding fulfillment and feeling good about yourself and doing what is best for you, as do many counselors. Rather, she talks very directly about taking responsibility and doing the right thing and self-sacrifice and duty and morality and faith. Peter was someone who called into her show asking for advice about his predicament. He was considering asking his sister and the children to move out. “What about me?” he said, “This is my only chance at success. I have to focus on work, or I will be out of the running.”
Dr. Schlessinger said to him: “Peter, you sound like a good man, so I don’t have to lecture you like I have to lecture some of the others who call in to this show. But let me just give you one question for you to ask yourself as you make this decision. Project yourself into the future 15 years, and imagine yourself from that perspective looking back at this time and this decision. What do you think you will wish then that you had done now?”
Dr. Sclessinger could hear Peter sobbing at the other end of the phone. He thanked her and said he knew what he had to do. He was sad because he could see his dream of rising to the very top coming to an end. But he knew that four people needed his help more than he needed to be at the top. And he knew that in the long run, he would feel better about doing the right thing now. He would just make up his mind to be satisfied at work with only moderate success. He could live well enough on that, and his sister would get the help she needed, and three children would have a home. It was the right thing to do, and he realized that doing the right thing would, in time, bring its own kind of deeper reward.
Dr. Schlessinger lists three necessary characteristics of a good moral foundation. She calls them the three “C’s” — they are Character, Conscience, and Courage. Peter had Character– he wanted to do the right thing. He had Conscience– it bothered him to consider not doing his duty. And, after talking to Dr. Schlessinger, he made the decision to have the Courage to do what was needed.
In 1723 when he was only 20 years old, New England pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote 70 “Resolutions” to serve as a guide to his life and ministry. This is one of those resolutions:
“I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live if they were to live their lives over again. RESOLVED, that I will live just as I think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.”
I Corinthians 16;13, 14 — Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
Galatians 6:9, 10 — Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Matthew 25:21 — “…Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Grant us, O Lord, grace to follow thee… In little daily duties to which thou callest us, bow down our will to simple obedience, patience under pain or provocation, strict truthfulness of word or manner, humility, and kindness. In great acts of duty, if thou shouldst call us to them, uplift us to sacrifice and heroic courage, that in all things, both small and great, we may be imitators of thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)