Integrity, Inclination, and Doing the Next Right Thing

If you subscribe to my blog via email, you will have noticed there’s a little postscript at the end of each post:

Do the next right thing…

I adopted this little quote when I read it in a book by Elisabeth Eliot at the beginning of my mothering journey, and it has served me well, because I have an unruly filly called Inclination who lives with me.  She likes to have her own way, and if I’m not careful, she will run after all sorts of things and lead me astray.

It is well to make up our mind that there is always a next thing to be done, whether in work or play; and that the next thing, be it ever so trifling, is the right thing; not so much for its own sake, perhaps, as because, each time we insist upon ourselves doing the next thing, we gain power in the management of that
unruly filly, Inclination.

I have an email I need to send but I see a Facebook post and quick as a flash, Inclination rushes on and before I know it, forty minutes have flown past and the email is still waiting to be sent.
Or I’ll be reading a book and stay up late to finish it, forgetting I have an early start the next day and I won’t have time in the morning to organise anything. The filly gets loose and it takes all my power to get her back under control.

‘Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow!’ that unruly filly whinnies.

The dilatory, procrastinating person rejoices over a counsel he can follow! But not so fast, friend; this easy-going rule of life means “putting first things first.” Now, the power of ordering, organising, one’s work which this implies distinguishes between a person of intelligence and the unintelligent person who lets himself be swamped by details.

Intelligent – from the Latin, intelligens. To be endowed with the faculty of understanding or reason.

 

 

The power to distinguish what must be done at once, from what may be done, comes pretty much by habit. At first it requires attention and thought. But mind and body get into the way of doing most things; and the person, whose mind has the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, saves much annoyance to himself and others, and has gained in Integrity.
What is worth beginning is worth finishing, and what is worth doing is worth doing well…Of course there are fifty reasons for doing the new thing; but here is another case where we must curb that filly, Inclination…

…let us do each bit of work as perfectly as we know how, remembering that each thing we turn out is a bit of ourselves, and we must leave it whole and complete; for this is Integrity.

Integrity
takes in the whole moral character, particularly the mind, and we are continually making or marring this character. The word Integrity comes from the Latin word integer (integritas) or whole number; meaning that a person of integrity is a whole person, unimpaired and of a sound, understanding mind.

Doing the next right thing, remembering that each thing I turn out is a bit of myself and I must leave it whole and complete; these little acts of diligence, attention, and perseverance build a foundation for Integrity to rest upon.

The quotes above are taken from Ourselves by Charlotte Mason, Chapter XVII – Integrity: Justice in Action.

 
 

20 thoughts on “Integrity, Inclination, and Doing the Next Right Thing

  1. This resonates with me! I let that filly loose way more often than I'd like to admit. This also puts me in mind of Cindy Rollins, talking about how we are our habits. On some days, it feels impossible to stick to our must-do's, much less control our want-to-do's. Thanks for that last phrase, too – these little acts of diligence, attention and perseverance – yes! They seem little but they're anything but. They do add up! Really great post – thanks.

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  2. This is a wonderful reminder, Carol. I particularly appreciate how Integrity is defined here:\”The power to distinguish what must be done at once, from what may be done, comes pretty much by habit. At first it requires attention and thought. But mind and body get into the way of doing most things; and the person, whose mind has the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, saves much annoyance to himself and others, and has gained in Integrity.\” Very convicting.And as always, your commonplace snapshot is lovely–such a pretty script!

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  3. Funny how it's often just a simple thing that makes all the difference. As I mentioned above to Alison, I slipped off the path for a while. Inclination is the easy option when I'm tired or disorganised.

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  4. Oh, this is good stuff. Not only for me … obviously 😉 … but to instill in my children and speak identity into them: \”each thing we turn out is a bit of ourselves.\” Using this to encourage them on the right path and to put forth their best effort in all things.

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