Would you do the right thing if no one was watching?

Allen Cothran

I’m recovering from the stomach bug, which my wife now has. Two of our three young boys have been sick, and the fact is I’m tired. But one of the chickens has gone missing. This might seem trivial to you, but my wife and boys love the chickens. They are not trivial to them.

As a result of their feelings, I’ve been outside on this rainy night looking for Eugenia (the chicken). It’s 10:34 and I have yet to find her, so when my alarm goes off at 6am, I will set out to find Eugenia, even though my family probably wouldn’t know if I just gave up.  

My dirty secret is that I don’t really care about Eugenia. I’m resigned to the fact that sooner or later nature will take its divinely-inspired course and one of the beloved chickens will be no more. So why the effort? Why not just let nature take its course and let my family believe I did my best?

Because it’s essential to chase chickens when chickens matter to people you care about.

Why I Spent Time on a Little Thing I Didn’t Want To Do

For years, I didn’t do a very good job of being available for my family. My decisions were rooted in selfishness and a desire to manage my own life. God was gracious enough to use some very difficult circumstances to teach me what it means to turn that around, but it was not easy.

Philippians 2:3 is one of our family’s favorite verses: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Considering others above myself means showing up when it’s important to them.

Considering others above myself means showing up when it’s important to them. This is not to say that I pander to others by doing what they expect from me so they owe me one. It means I set the example of what’s most important, and then I live that example. For us, that standard is to love God and love others. In this situation, the best way to love my family is to try to find the chicken, and that demonstration of love is the best way to influence them.

3 Reasons to Do the Right Thing Even When No One’s Watching

We can show our motives are genuine by living in a way that’s consistent with our beliefs. Leading in the little things proves our motives in three ways.

1. The little things show our dedication to integrity.

If our motive is impressing others, we will quickly give up the effort required by the little things. If we act differently when no one is watching, it’s an indication we’re seeking the approval of others rather than seeking God’s will for our lives (Galatians 1:10).

2. The little things are important to somebody.

If we’re motivated by selfishness, we’ll stop doing the things that we don’t personally care about. Rather than thinking of others before thinking of ourselves, we’ll choose what we want rather than leading by serving. But by caring about small details someone else values, we show we care about that person.

3. The little things prove how we’ll handle the big things.

If we’re driven by a need for immediate results, we’ll quit. Leadership requires more than just showing up for birthdays and company-wide meetings. Leaders demonstrate commitment in smaller ways. They show up on time with a smile and a good attitude, and they’re willing to do the unglamorous and unappreciated (Luke 16:10).

Life fills up with the seemingly unimportant. When this happens, it’s important to make sure our decisions reflect our values, and not our selfishness. If we are rightly motivated, we should place the needs of others above our own. By genuinely caring for others and doing the right thing, we demonstrate true leadership.

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