The Secret to a Less Stressful Life
It happened again today — I saw a policeman hiding in the bushes by the side of the road ….what’s the normal reaction you have when you see this? Can’t you feel it now…you instantly move your foot off the gas, and ease it onto the brake, don’t you?
Only, here was the beauty of it. I didn’t.
Why? Because I KNEW I was driving at the speed limit. I had nothing to fear, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
It occurred to me that this is an interesting metaphor for life. If you are keeping to the old “straight and narrow” (as they used to say), you don’t have to worry that you’re going to get caught doing anything wrong. ‘Cause you’re NOT DOING ANYTHING for which to get caught.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not going all Pollyanna on you but there are some interesting “truths” about this approach:
- When you don’t lie or “extend” the truth, it’s easy when you have to repeat your story because the “truth” is the “truth.” In general, many liars are caught because their story lacks consistently with repeated telling and they get minor facts wrong that eventually expose them.
- When you are keeping secrets you shouldn’t, often you get found out because you inadvertently “slip” and expose something you didn’t mean to. Similar to the point above, but a tad different.
- When you commit a crime — even a “minor” one, — you tend to worry about getting caught. Unless you are completely pathological, the fear of getting caught is at least as bad, if not worse, than the actual punishment itself. In some ways, getting caught and receiving your consequence is a relief because “worst case” has occurred and you also are relieved that justice did its duty.
- How about even simple “sneakiness?” Our conscience tends to nag us when we are being sneaky or nasty even if the target of our “snip” doesn’t know it.
- For some people, even being disingenuous is hard. If you put yourself in a contentious position just because you have an axe to grind, well, that can irk you. You know you weren’t being fair, but you did it anyway. Nothing like a good apology to make both sides “right.”
Like I said, this is not a Pollyanna, “I’m holier than thou” preach session. But I have personally found that when I stick to the generally expected rules of behavior, life automatically becomes simpler. If I’m honest, I don’t need to double-check my story or be worried someone will catch me in a lie. If I admit to the store clerk that she forgot to charge me for an item, then I don’t have to feel guilty that I committed “soft theft” (hey, there’s no such thing…it’s stealing if you know someone didn’t charge you for something that you “bought.”) and try to justify it in my mind that it was the clerk’s fault for not paying attention. If I am sharp in my words and actions, it’ll bug me until I make it good with the “victim” even if they thought nothing of it.
We all have been given an opportunity — to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, — or to go with the regular flow and blend in with those other people who take any shortcut that they can.
I find it’s much easier on me and my conscience to just “do right.” I am an imperfect human being and I screw up as much as the next person, but I try to “color within the lines” because when I do, I don’t have to worry about being caught out of bounds. It’s simpler for me, it’s a less stressful way of living, and it works.