“Do the Next Right Thing”

“Do the next right thing.”

That is the theme song and message from my granddaughter’s favorite movie, Frozen 2. I share this because it has become a favorite daily mantra of mine ever since a friend introduced me to the line during a conversation about how we are negotiating this troubling, uncertain and anxious time.

I will admit that I have struggled with what to say this week. I still have a blog ready to go on my thoughts about how the Holy Breadcrumbs image may be giving way to a new image more suited to our current context. I had written another blog after receiving a couple of emails from readers about their discomfort with me stepping into the fray of our divisive political context. I was aware that this week’s blog would be published within seven days of the presidential inauguration and that, given our current situation, anything I say on Thursday morning could be outdated by Thursday evening and certainly by next Wednesday.

unknown path

Then I thought about this line that I repeat to myself on most days: “Do the next right thing.” It has guided me and calmed me for weeks. The truth is if I look too far into the future I feel overwhelmed and unsuited to the task of leading a community of faith through a period of an historic pandemic and equally historic political pandemonium. But if I concentrate on what is in front of me for one particular day I almost always feel confident about what I am doing and certain that I am doing “the next right thing.”

People ask me how I am doing. Over and over again I find myself answering, “I am doing fine as long as I just concentrate on one day at a time.”

This theme from Frozen 2 has given me good guidance and it also reminds me that we in the faith community are not alone. Artists, musicians, screenwriters, poets, and novelists are often partners with us providing in spiritual nourishment and guidance to our society. The language may be different, but the message is often the same.

“Do the next right thing” is Disney’s version of faith. The whole premise of faith is being able to act on what is good and right right now even when we can’t see the eventual outcome. The whole premise of faith is to trust that there is a force (a force we call God) in the universe that doesn’t need us to have everything figured out. That force only needs us to be faithful right now and to “do the next right thing.”

This is why I have been writing under the Holy Breadcrumbs title. It is my way of saying, “All we have to do is follow the next holy breadcrumb and trust that when we get to one breadcrumb on the path God will present the next breadcrumb to guide our way.

rubik's cube

I think this is important in this time. I personally am not smart enough to know what to do in coming days that will result in peace, the healing of our society, the restoration of trust between people and the avoidance of conflict and violence. The complexity of our situation is too much for me to know what precise actions will result in my desired outcomes. But I do know that I can continue to act according to my faith. I do know that I can “do the next right thing.” I do know that tomorrow morning I can wake up and “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.”

I will leave you with the benediction that I have offered for years as a pastor. Many of you will recognize it. In it is the invitation to “Do the next right thing.”

Go out into the world in peace;

Have courage;

Hold onto what is good;

Repay no one evil for evil;

Strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the suffering;

Honor everyone;

Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

7 thoughts on ““Do the Next Right Thing”

  1. There is no way to avoid stepping into and speaking to the current climate. We all have to step carefully but we cannot just step away. Imagine if the prophets didn’t bother themselves with politics? They were God’s mouthpiece and we are also called to be prophetic. Go with God and go in love.

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  2. Thanks for this, Brian. I’ve come to same conclusion – I’m taking life one day at time and strive to stay positive and do the best I can for that day. The next day, I get up and do the same. I work two part-time jobs which take me away from my home each day. I’m grateful for the daily ‘change in scenery’.
    Great benediction, too. I have a pastor friend whose benediction has a similar message, “Lord, as we have been blessed, please send us out to be blessings to others!”
    Have a great day!
    Caroline

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  3. Just a thought to re-orient your breadcrumbs, Brian. The picture you put at the top of this blog spoke to me and said, “Stepping Stones” as a way of doing the next right thing. There is also the metaphor of the labyrinth – as long as the path is followed, it will lead to the center; and after illumination, the same path leads back out into the world.
    I think in a time and a place such as now, one of the gifts of the prophetic voice is to speak truth to power…but it doesn’t have to yell one side of the political aisle or the other, it has to proclaim the God is Love. What is the next right thing? Love is a verb, as the funk 80s-90s band “DC Talk” wrapped/sang. That seems like the central message to me, and any pathway that leads to it is one more stepping stone on the right path.

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  4. I have amended this mantra for me. The truth is that I often don’t know what is right. In my growing awareness of my privilege, I am stepping back from knowing what is right. And people will disagree about what is right. Certainly some of those who attacked the capital last week believed with all their hearts that they were doing the next right thing. Since being right or wrong can cause so much guilt and division, this question begs the previous question: do we know what is right? It is not so easy to prove one answer from the Bible either, so that doesn’t always help. So I use a different mantra now: Do the next kind thing. It is probably open to the same weaknesses. But I can live with myself better if I act in kindness as my first consideration. Brian, you hint at this with your reference to Micah 6:8 – that the content of what is right is to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. I guess I kind of mess with the order of these. If I love kindness, and walk humbly with God (and my fellow humans), then justice will be the outcome. That is my hope and faith.
    What do you think?
    Carley

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    1. Hi Carley,
      I appreciate your comment and it highlights the limits of language when one focused on answering a specific question as opposed to providing a philosophy that leaves very few holes in it. Essentially I was asking the question, “How does one live when you can’t see the future and make decisions based on projected outcomes?” My answer was, “Do the next right thing” and let it unfold before you. But, like you, if I had asked the question, “What is the right thing,” it would have presented more of an ethical dilemma. In the end, I think the answer would have to be, “Act on your values rather than on outcomes,” but of course only the most saintly do that on a consistent basis. For example, only the most dedicated pacifist doesn’t resort to violence in defense of family or children. For now, I am learning to do the next right thing meaning “this is what FEELS right for now,” and hoping that God honors it one way or another. Peace…Brian

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