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PAPERWORK: Listen to that voice inside all of us

How do you figure it out?

The difference between right or what’s wrong.

We face this question every day I think. In so many ways.

Little links in the day become a chain of choices we drag throughout our lives.

Those choices can get heavy over time.

Many are small and easier to forgive or forget.

Eating oatmeal or Fruit Loops?

Hit the treadmill or the sofa with a good book?

But some choices are bigger.

Keep the money and toss the wallet or find the owner?

Pocket the candy bar or pay for it?

And then some get huge and much, much heavier.

Shoot or don’t shoot?

Hate or forgive?

We make these choices based on what we think is right or wrong. Or do we?

We all know the difference. Right?

Arguments have been made that this is a human instinct, built in when we are born.

Somehow we automatically know the difference between right and wrong on the important issues. It’s a law of human nature.

The man who built a religious foundation on this belief was C. S. Lewis. The same guy who gave us the Chronicles of Narnia books.

He did have a way with words. His logic is easy to follow and harder to reject.

“… human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it,” Lewis wrote.

“Secondly, that they do not in fact behave that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”

I think back to moments that triggered that instinct. After doing things that did not feel right.

Somehow I knew what was right and what was wrong.

But why?

It didn’t come from Bible study. Yes, I could hear my parents, teachers and friends warning me. But who told them?

I have to side with Lewis. I am not sure I was taught.

I mean, yeah, I was told what not to do, but I accepted it. Somehow I knew it was right. It felt right.

Yeah. Felt. In the gut.

What’s interesting — and Lewis pointed this out — is how often we ignore our gut instincts.

Which brings me to now. And these troubling times.

Seems our country is at odds over this question: What’s right and what’s wrong?

What’s seems right to me, seems wrong to you. “Me” being half the country. “You” being the other half. Give or take.

Each side knows they are right, so the other side has to be wrong.

But like Lewis said, I’m not sure we’re paying attention to our gut.

It’s pretty easy to make fun and ridicule. Attack and poke.

Oh, I Iaugh at stuff I see online. But my gut tells me it ain’t right. It feels wrong.

But it seems like the thing to do these days.

Sort of like peeing in the pool … because I can. Kind of stupid though. Cause I’m in the pool, too.

The human issues, the things that will matter in the end, seem to get lost in the anger and hate.

On all sides.

Lewis also said this:

“This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts in the long run are hopeless.

“But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again.

“We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it.”

At the end of the day, I must live with the actions of others. Some rules I won’t like. Others I will. That’s how it works.

When the votes are counted, you move on. Live with it or try to change it.

But how you deal with the other side, the people you don’t agree with, is another matter.

For me, that won’t be based on how they voted. It will be about who they are.

I will rely on my gut to judge other people. Using that natural instinct that knows right from wrong and whispers to us when we’ve chosen wrong.

I will simply ask myself, if it were me, would I say that?

If it were me, would I do that?

If it were me, what would I do? What would I say?

I will trust my gut to tell me right from wrong.

If we could all do that — set aside the hate and anger and do that — then perhaps that goodness in all of us will prevail.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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