I found wisdom this winter in the strangest of places, as one often does. It was in the dark, sitting next to my daughter, who is four years old.
Before us on the screen: A young woman, believing her sister had died, found herself faced with the unimaginable. What does she do?
She doesn’t let go. She owns it. And moves forward with five simple, profound, and freeing words: “Do the next right thing.”
Simple in that regardless of one’s situation, those five words speak volumes. They do not require one to make sense of the impossible, to rectify the unspeakable, but rather seek wisdom in moving forward with dignity, grace, and courage.
Profound in that those five words allow one to move beyond the moral gymnastics tragedy creates wherein one considers embracing the terrible Biblical misreading of an eye for an eye. Rather than taking another’s eye, do the next right thing.
Freeing in that those five words provide a path out of self-pity and victimization, especially when it is quite understandable and reasonable; doing the next right thing provides a path forward.
Moving forward is key to the aforementioned sister’s wisdom. It is not asking us to move on, leave behind, and let go of the past, of the pain. Rather, moving forward requires that we know where we have been.
The past is not a crutch. It is not a barrier. But it exists.
While Elsa, in Frozen, once told us to Let It Go, it is her little sister, Anna, in Frozen II, who gives the far more nuanced and meaningful advice: in whatever circumstance you find yourself, just do the next right thing.
I’m Michael Perry, and that’s my perspective.