Kelly Ramke Lardin is the author of the children's books Josiah and Julia Go to Church, and Let's Count From 1 to 20 (bilingual counting books in French and Spanish). She holds degrees in French from The University of the South and Tulane University and studied translation at SUNY-Binghamton. She has always enjoyed writing and loves studying languages. She converted to Orthodoxy shortly after marrying her husband, who is also a convert to Orthodoxy. Her journey to the faith was fraught with struggle, but she wouldn't trade it for anything. Together she and her husband are raising their two daughters in the Orthodox faith. This continuing journey still has its moments of struggle but is also a joy. Visit her at kellylardin.com for more information on her books and to read short stories and other writings. She also blogs about her faith, family, and life in Chicago at A Day's Journey. She is available for speaking engagements through the Orthodox Speakers Bureau.
“Wrong is wrong even when everyone is doing it. Right is right even when no one is doing it.”
I’m not sure who first said that, but it is a lesson well worth remembering. My parents used to phrase it differently when I was younger. They would ask “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” Sometimes I would answer “yes,” but at others I knew that I would stand up against peer-pressure and not follow along to my own destruction.
We have a tendency to look at the present in comparison to the past and bemoan how much worse things have gotten. I’m not so sure that they have. Some months ago my husband and I watched a very disturbing film, An American Crime (2007), based on the true story of a girl growing up in Indiana in the 1960s. Her parents left her and her sister in the care of a seemingly loving woman with several children of her own. This woman was abusive to the girl, and even worse encouraged her children and their friends to be abusive as well. The other children all followed the woman down the wrong path. A few did hesitate and tried to do what was right, but it must have been easier to do what everyone else was doing. The fact that no one stood up and pressed on to do the right thing resulted in the girl’s torturous death. It was a difficult movie to watch largely because the wrong was silenced and ignored until it was too late.
Both yesterday and today there was and is plenty wrong in the world. Unlike that event in the ’60s which was very much hidden until it couldn’t be hidden anymore, wrong today is flaunted. There is a commercial on TV and youtube for the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas that loudly and brightly tells us that “Wrong has more fun,” “Correct is a mistake,” and “Right is a trap.” It exhorts us to “Fight right.” It suggests that in doing what’s wrong we’ll become our own special individual instead of a conformist. This 30 second commercial hits at the core of my being and fills me with a wave of nausea when I see it, and I am so thankful my children have never seen it. With a 9 year old, I already have a big enough battle encouraging her to do the right thing, and not to worry about what everyone else is doing without advertisers screaming at her to rebel.
The creators of this commercial, like so many children, don’t seem to understand that “wrong” is not just an arbitrary label intended to douse all fun. When did we forget that things are wrong because they hurt? When we do the “wrong” thing we risk physical or emotional injury to others or even to ourselves. God didn’t give us the Ten Commandments to watch us suffer, rather He gave them to us to help us live in communion with Him and our fellow man.
It may seem like a good idea to take your friend’s new iPad because you’ve really been wanting one and can’t afford one, but your friend is going to be really sad to lose it. You may think you are so in love with your boyfriend or girlfriend, so it’ll be okay to have sex even though you’re not married. After all one day you’ll get married… except when you don’t. Then, the other person leaves and you’re left feeling betrayed and used (or even harder you’re left with a precious baby to raise all on your own). The wrong thing always seems fun and good. That’s why it’s so tempting. Yet we must trust God and trust our elders. There is a very good reason why some things are wrong and should be avoided.
What the Cosmopolitan commercial doesn’t tell us is that “Wrong has more fun, and then it hurts.” Not to mention the premise that doing the right thing makes us conformists is just wrong today. We live in a society where sin is cool, and choosing to follow moral values is politically incorrect. You’re more likely to stand out and be unique if you choose right over wrong. Finally, let’s remember that doing what’s right doesn’t mean we have to be untrue to ourselves. In fact, if we do what’s right, we give ourselves even more opportunities to express ourselves. As we often tell our daughter, “you will get many more privileges and freedom if you make good choices and we can trust you.” There’s no freedom in being a slave to sin.