Choosing the Right Side
Bill Cottringer

An elderly Episcopal priest once gave a simple sermon with a single message that makes too much sense to disregard, even for non-religious people. The message was this: There is one main choice in life and that is which side are you on—the right one or the other one? (Notice the absence of the word “wrong”). Is there a right side of life to be on?

I suppose it depends upon the means by which you measure the degree of rightness, or how you define “right” vs. its opposite, whatever that is. I propose you can define “right” behaviors based on a collection of standards, including moral principles, critical thinking, scientific research, natural law, accepted authority and the practical outcomes the behaviors have on the individual’s autonomy and consequences for others.

Consider the following two lists of twenty behavior samples—Right and Other: On which side are you and the people you like to be around?


• Leaning towards being optimistic, but always having a back-up plan just in case Murphy’s law turns out to be true in the case at hand.
• Helping yourself be happy and successful by helping others be that way first.
• Having an open-mind in learning new things every day and admitting you hardly know anything compared to all there is to know.
• Asking good questions instead of looking for clever answers.
• Seeing emotional intelligence as important to success and finding ways to increase it in your life, especially empathy.
• Trying to be reasonably humble around others and take genuine interest in them.
• Being a two-eared good listener to learn more about the other person and situation you are in..
• Having interest in sustaining a few long-term cures to problems in life, even if you have to forgo some immediate pleasure and endure some temporary pain.
• Approaching conflicts as welcome opportunities to learn, grow and improve.
• Being equally sensitive to your own and other’s needs.
• Being somewhat choosy in having a few really close best friends.
• Being accepting and tolerant with others more than judgmental or critical.
• Needing to feel a sense of making progress at what you are doing or how you are living.
• Being willing to taking some risks and chances.
• Being openly honest, but sensitive to needlessly hurting others with your honesty.
• Seeing other people as being capable of both good or bad, depending on the situation and being careful in assuming accountability for wrong-doing.
• Practicing assertiveness in standing up for your own rights without being offensive to others or disabling them.
• Being able to understand both perspectives on a divisive issue in search for the whole truth, despite the lure and temptation of being satisfied with half-truths.
• Interested in knowing and living your unique purpose in life.


• Being cynical and pessimistic because that is the safest way to prevent any disappointment of things likely going wrong.
• Helping others after you become as happy and successful as you think you should be.
• Being closed-minded and thinking you already know enough or there isn’t much else worth knowing.
• Providing clever answers instead of looking for better questions to ask.
• Not knowing what emotional intelligence is or not thinking you need it.
• Using your ego to dominate and intimidate others.
• Listening only to be able to respond smartly now.
• Focusing on several short-term. Fixes to show immediate results, in not wanting to forgo short-term pleasures and not worrying about long term side effects.
• Avoiding conflicts at all costs because they are too difficult and harmful to maneuver.
• Being more sensitive to your own needs than those of others or too sensitive to others needs at the expense of your own valid ones.
• Having an abundance of friends in being popular.
• Being more judgmental than tolerant of others differences.
• Not thinking or worrying about making progress at what you are doing or how you are living.
• Not wanting to risk take chances.
• Having the skill to manipulate the truth cleverly.
• Seeing people as only being capable of either good or bad and assigning full accountability for wrong-doing.
• Being aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive in dealing with situations and people.
• Keeping with one point of view consistently and tending to embrace half-truths.
• Not thinking your unique purpose is relevant to living.

When you lay out these behaviors this way, choosing the right side to be on is easy.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness (Covenant Books, Inc.) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or