We’re told as children to do the right thing, to fight for what is right and good. We get lulled into thinking that if you’re right, everything is going to be OK. But life doesn’t always work that way. Being right can cost us. Even righteous anger still has consequences.
Let me illustrate. I recently had someone lie to me, and then they claimed I lied about it. Those are both “hot buttons” for me, and I called the person out on it. Vociferously. All right, I ranted and yelled and shouted loud enough that her husband heard me on the other end of the phone. I even had a witness to her most recent lie, but it didn’t matter. There were consequences.
The person who lied was my landlady. The consequence of my throwing a shoe – as my husband says — was that our rent went up. And they charged us for “back fees” that we weren’t supposed to have to pay. And since we only had a verbal agreement (they had yet to give us a contract after 6 months) we really had little recourse.
You see, we had a rent-to-buy agreement with the prior owner. But he sold out from under us to family, and we were assured by all parties that nothing would change.
The first thing they did was to more than double our rent. But medical issues prevented us from taking immediate action. Things came up here and there, but we figured we had two years. Then the above tirade occurred.
This happened a couple of days before rent was due. My husband was mad at me for rocking the boat. But when he took the rent check over, her husband threatened to put an eviction notice on our door because of the incident. Mine didn’t take that too kindly. He held his tongue until he got home but told me to start looking for a house. (I had already started.)
In discussing the details of the situation with some savvy folks, we had a decent case had we chosen to go to court, but there are never guarantees. We both prefer to be in our own place and having something to show for our efforts.
That doesn’t mean it has been an easy process to live through. My husband was mad at me for blowing my top; I was mad at him for never getting the original agreement in writing. (He assumed that the old owner, a good friend, would honor his word. Another friendship dying an unnatural death.)
We are now in the process of moving into our new home – a story for another day. As I look at the whole situation, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can look myself in the mirror and be pleased that I stood up for what was right. I don’t know that the other couple can, or if they even care. But I made one very big mistake: I didn’t consider how the consequences would affect my husband’s life as well as my own.
When such pivotal situations have happened in the past, I was single and the only one truly affected. That isn’t the case now, and I failed to take that into consideration. Our marriage is a partnership, and I left my partner hanging. While we agree staying isn’t tenable, I pushed us into search mode before either of us was ready. And that is on me.
That’s the problem with being right, even morally right. There are often consequences beyond our expectations or vision. It’s too easy to say, “That’s their problem” or “It’s not my fault,” when, in fact, we are the ones who set things in motion, right or wrong. Whether it’s a matter of facts or integrity or moral obligation, being right can be costly. It may be a friendship, or a house, or a life if the stakes are that high.
Integrity demands that we take responsibility for our decisions and actions. This is especially hard when those decisions or actions affect others, whether close to us or strangers. And we often fail. I’m one who tends to wallow in that mud, berating myself, apologizing over and over.
But that’s where Grace comes in. Grace picks us up out of the sludge, wipes our face and says, “Ok, that’s done. Now, what are you going to do next? I’ll help.”