My Life with God

What’s Proper?

Proper.

It’s commonly a southern term even though I’ve heard others use it.

It’s the proper thing to do.

It wouldn’t be proper.

Sometimes the things someone feels pressure to do or not do because of its properness is connected to the rightness of it but not always. For many people, especially in certain regions and generations, proper is more about what is culturally expected or what personal beliefs are involved and less about the truth of right and wrong. It often has to do with guilt and obligation. and that can be a difficult thing for somebody to work through. As people get older, sometimes they begin to allow some things to fall aside that they have clung to in the past. Other times, people cling on to those things with a fervor, because they have established a pattern and expectation. To loosen the guilt and obligation (or tradition) would undermine who they think they are. The obligation exponentially multiplies.

The reliance on what’s proper can resemble idolatry, a sense of worship to the expectations of themselves or others whether they’re driven by guilt or the avoidance of it. I know we don’t see this as often anymore. Now we seem to have another problem of people not caring what anyone else thinks and behaving out of selfishness, which is actually an expression of idolatry.

Any time our decisions are not based on an absolute, a firm truth, something sound and core and foundational, it focuses more on self. Even if self says I’m doing this out of concern for others, it can be an expression of selfishness when we rationalize what is best for others out of our own comfort and preferences. Selflessness is more about the consideration of what is right in a situation. Even if it makes me uncomfortable, even if it takes more effort or time or resources than I feel like I have, even if it requires more faith, even if it requires more empathy.

It’s worth the effort. Doing what’s proper isn’t as important as doing what’s right, being humble enough explore and consider and grow. It’s important to our faith, ourselves, and people around us.

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