Why do what’s right when doing what’s wrong is easier?

sixteenbynine asked in his LJ:

Once, a while ago, someone asked me a question I couldn’t answer at the time: “Why do the right thing when you might not even get rewarded for it? Especially when it’s just easier to do the wrong thing most of the time anyway?”

Talk about living in a stacked deck!

Here’s the answer I came up with and posted in the comments:

When your only motivation for doing something is a reward, then when you don’t get the reward, you fail. You may be tempted to do what’s wrong if you believe it will lead to the reward. Therefore, the conditions for success are external to you. You are focused on the effect.

When your only motivation for doing something is doing what’s right, you only fail if you fail to do what you intended. The success or failure is entirely dependent on you and what you do. You are focused on the cause.

The latter–doing what’s right–is a stronger strategy because you absolutely control your outcome of success or failure. Doing what’s wrong is weaker because you can’t always control the outcome–the effect.

In my opinion, doing what’s right is simply the smarter strategy.

I just hope I can find the strength and wisdom to focus on doing what’s right.

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