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Life 101: When do you do the right thing?

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There are several scenarios that we encounter on a daily basis that test our ability to do the right thing—picking up our pet’s waste being one. In her most recent column, Linda Arnold dives into the things that may be holding us back from making better choices. PHOTO BY MATTHEW LEJUNE


We all know the right thing to do in most cases. Do we always do it, though?

Sometimes our responses are conditional. I ran across a few soul-searching questions, developed by human resources consultant and writer George J. Ziogas that shed some light on the subject. The issues range from simple to complex:

  • You’re in the kitchen, grabbing a drink, when an ice cube goes flying onto the floor.  What do you do?
  • You’re out on a hike and spot some candy wrappers on the trail. What do you do?
  • You’re on public transportation. Your feet hurt, and your back is aching. An elderly person boards. Do you offer him or her your seat?
  • You’re out walking your dog. He just did his business in someone’s yard, but nobody is around. Do you pick up after him?

In these situations, the right thing to do is pretty evident. Do you do it, or do you opt for the easy way out? Here are some things that might be holding you back from making the right choice. 

Leaky Margins

This got me thinking about the subject of “leaky margins,” a term that originated with dentistry and has recently been associated with a lack of integrity. There may be areas in which you have leaky margins—gaps in your integrity. And this can chip away at your soul.

The earlier scenarios just scratch the surface. Digging deeper, Ziogas identifies characteristics that could result in you being a toxic influence on your friends and associates.

You Don’t Respect Boundaries 

If you refuse to take “no” for an answer, you’re likely violating someone’s boundaries. This could take the form of guilting someone into doing something for you—or taking advantage of someone’s tendencies to be a pushover, Ziogas explains. You may think your intensity and persistence are strong traits, although they’re actually disrespectful.

You Can Be Manipulative

You may be great at offering kindness, but mainly when it benefits you. You look for ways to manipulate others into behaving the way you want them to.  

You Refuse to Take Responsibility 

If you can’t be accountable for your behavior—and always look to blame others—you likely have some integrity issues.

You Take More Than You Give

Relationships are a two-way street. Sometimes you give more, and sometimes you take more.  It all depends on the situation. If you’re constantly a taker, though, that’s a red flag.

You Have Control Issues

This is a tricky one, especially if you’re a proactive, goal-oriented person. You may feel like taking charge—and taking action—are  the right things to do. While this is often the case, you have problems turning off this personal trait. And then you try to force things—and end up bulldozing your way through.

You Revel in Others’ Misfortune

You may not be proud of it, but there’s a part of you that gets a sense of satisfaction when things are falling apart for other people. This may be a way of compensating for your own shortcomings. “If that’s the only thing that makes you feel better when you’re going through your own troubles,” Ziogas explains, “then you’re reaching a point of no return.”

Doing the right thing is an ongoing state of awareness. None of us can predict what will come across our paths at every moment. There may be times when you’ve intended to do the right thing and weren’t able to execute those intentions. Just pay attention and acknowledge your behaviors.  

Even when no one is watching.

©2021 Linda Arnold Life 101, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at For information on her books, go to or

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