It has come to my attention that everyone thinks they’re the good guys.
I ran across this video, which is political, so let me sum it up more personally – all sides to any conflict believe they are in the right.
This plays out for individuals too. When I was young, if I thought about people who did bad things, I suppose I assumed they thought of themselves as Wicked.
They don’t. Over and over again I’ve seen, it, enough times now that I get what’s going on. People who do bad things are telling themselves an internal story that they are OK. That their actions are Correct, at least Justifiable. Few people bother with Simply Excusable.
And what’s weird, to me, is that often intelligence aids and abets in the story-telling. People don’t use their minds to analyze their behaviors dispassionately but rather to allow. In fact, sometimes the smarter people are the better they are at this act of self-deception. Very disappointing. When I was young I worked for a brilliant man. Golly gosh gee whiz the fancy fictions to justify terrible behavior.
This isn’t true of everyone, luckily. I have always loved smart engineers because they tend to dissect everything equally.
So in these days of retirement, when I have time and maybe an obligation to become virtuous, I find the best tactic is to stay still with my own impulses. To listen to my internal narration, and wait until it quiets, and in the silence is as much truth as I’m capable of hearing.
Now, I’d be lying if I said, that I always rise above my understood motivations to choose the virtuous act. Does self-honesty bring inevitable good? Nope. Even when I see what I’m doing I might do it anyway. I am just as selfish, weak, and greedy as the next person.
But I’d rather live truthfully with my sins than in deception with an invented virtue. And I’m getting better.
Add insult to injury. Complex spun stories of personal glory don’t just let you do selfish things, they also require everyone around you to participate in the narrative. It’s a burden to others. You’re going along, doing what you want, getting what you want, and yet you’re insisting that somehow you are in the right. You insist that everyone else plays along, even applaud. Even hold a parade.
On the other hand, once you decide to stare your own flaws clear in the face, you can’t just sit down and be done. Either you make a change, painful though it might be, or, you forgive yourself.
Anything else is just frustration and lies. Life is short and why not see it truly in all its harm and glory?
Forgiveness is such a relief. As is doing better. Even if it’s really hard work, it’s still easier – albeit more frightening – than fiction. This may seem harsh. I don’t mean it to be. It’s only as true as I can make it.
Have a good weekend. All the best to each and every one.