Yesterday morning, like most every weekday morning, I drove the kids to school and then headed over to a nearby coffee place to pick up a cup of my wife’s favorite java. However, this morning was different. Now, I don’t know whether I was just zonked out from the previous late night’s work or what, but after carefully mixing her favorite formula of hazelnut coffee and Irish cream, I promptly walked out of the door. Yes, that’s right, I forgot to pay.
Well, I was oblivious to this until I got about ten minutes down the road, when it hit me. I turned around at the next light and went back. When I got there I just walked up to the counter and paid. I am certain that the lady never knew what had happened.
Look, I know that this isn’t exactly the riveting story of a great bank heist or something. It was just a cup of coffee. But me being me, I started to think about why I had done as I did (going back), and what other people might have done, and why. In the end, this silly coffee story addresses one of the most interesting questions that you can ask – “Why do people behave the way they do?”
After thinking on this deep question that grew out of a coffee theft I realized a few simple truths:
People do good either because they are acting on 1) fear, 2) programming (Momma said so) or 3) our deepest personal values. I also realized that society benefits regardless of our motive for doing good, but that we can never be truly happy unless our moral behavior is guided from our own personal core. Even when doing good, if you are doing it because that’s what you were taught, you won’t feel truly connected to that good act. True fulfillment comes from acting on our inner impulse, tempered with compassion and a steadfast respect for all beings.
So, do not fear challenging your most sacred personal programming. Even if you believe that what you were taught is true and right, only by challenging it can you make it truly your own. In this way you form your inner moral core, from which will spring your greatest sense of personal satisfaction.
Wow! How did that come from a cup of coffee? I need to get a hobby…
All the best,