Self-Evaluations: Getting Past the Illusions
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2016 (edited 2018)
Deflecting responsibility distracts attention from our miserable condition, temporarily providing relief without inviting change.
As a group of concerned passengers assisted a young man off the floor of the local rapid transit train, he began to bark obscenities, condemning the well-meaning citizens for their interference. Soaked in urine, and stained from vomit, he lifted his head off the floor, “Stupid people,” he cussed, “you think I can’t get up by myself.” He continued his ruthless slander, verbally attacking anyone making eye contact. The once helpful passengers, moved away, leaving the mean-spirited drunk to his own ruins. When I asked about his life and how he ended up homeless and alone, he blamed his parents, teachers, and government. Amazingly, even with his drug induced high, flowed articulate sentences and respectable intelligence. He was smart but far from wise. Sophisticated in words; but foolish in action.
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Somewhere between parents that didn’t love him, teachers that ignored him and authorities that didn’t understand, this young man skirted the burden of creating his own future. We know experience impacts our lives, rotten parents, unskilled professionals, and abusive officials interfere with development, damaging the tender souls relying on their direction. But we must live with the results; not them. Blaming the past doesn’t correct the present. When we don’t like what we see in the present, instead of excuses, we would do well to direct attention to solutions, inviting cures rather than escaping responsibility by naming the damning causes.
Intelligence can work to our advantage thoughtfully integrating experience into helpful lessons. But when we use intelligence to formulate justifications and blame, our skilled use of words is powerfully destructive; we convince ourselves of victimhood. How does that serve us?
The mind’s power to twist experience into logical excuses protects the ego. This practice is hurtful. The further we drift from normalcy, the more distorted the excuses. Though his bank account is empty, his relationships are in ashes, and his employment on the edge of termination, the drug addict insists he is not out of control like the more serious users. This dull grasp on reality conceals the opportunity for escape inviting continued sadness from the accumulating defeats. A false hope may temporarily ease the burden; but until hope is connected with corrective action, the desire can’t bloom into realities.
These protective proclivities of the mind inflict everyone, not just those whose lives are in ashes. The same deficits in thinking limit our relationships, exercise programs, job promotions and budgets. While the facts are clear—we are failing, we continue to justify errant courses. We keep giving subpar effort and wondering why we have disappointing results.
"A false hope may temporarily ease the burden; but until hope is connected with corrective action, the desire can’t bloom into realities."
We must search for concrete facts with suspicious investigation of our soothing lies if we wish to emerge on top. This young man was lying face down on the floor of a dirty transit bus because he drank too much and is suffering from alcoholism. These are facts he must face to change. We haven’t been promoted because we haven’t presenting ourselves to management well enough for consideration. Our relationships struggle because we selfishly ignore the needs of a sensitive partner. The causes are many. Find the elements within your realm of control. When we narrow our assessments, eliminating fruitless finger pointing, we may learn what actually can be done to redirect our lives.
To escape the distortions of a protective mind, we need better measurements—evaluation not easily manipulated by self-protecting justifications. These measures may include professional help, journals, and goals broken down into actions rather than vague hopes of future outcomes. Finances are measured with net-worth statements, and better career opportunities. To better discover how we are doing, we must find more objective measures.
We live one-day-at-a-time, but those single days accumulate, pointing towards the life we intend to live. We must drag ourselves off the floor, look circumstances in the eyes, and begin the challenging work of change.
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