Posts Tagged denial
I wise mentor once said to me, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.” Words are fine, actually more than fine. I love words. I make a living putting words on the page in a particular order to get a particular message out. But when it comes to character, watching what happens will tell you more about a person than their words.
Watching what you do will also tell you what you really want, no matter what you insisted upon verbally. I can tell you I’m over your slight when you stood me up at the movie theater. It’s OK. All is forgiven. But if you call me again and get the cold shoulder, you’ll know what I really think.
Words can be used as a subterfuge, to disguise our real desires and inclinations. Words can be true and direct, or they can misguide. But it’s much harder to cover up with our actions. Our actions display what we really want.
This is true even of larger issues. People have ended relationships–marriages, jobs, business associations, sports teams, etc.–not by stating openly that they want out. Rather, they acted out until someone else–a spouse, boss, coach, etc.–ended the relationship for them. This gives the one who wanted out the advantage of being “out” without taking responsibility. They can say, “He left me!” “They fired me!” “The coach threw me off the team!” But it’s what they truly wanted all along.
The tricky part is, sometimes we act out what we really want, yet we are so adept at self-deception that we don’t realize what we’re doing. We can complain about happened–and mean it. We can feel the pain of loss and the grief of separation–and it’s real. But something down deep really wanted the outcome we got.
As my wise mentor said, “If you want to know what people really want, watch what happens.”
Here in Michigan there is a playful ad as part of the State Treasury Department current tax amnesty program that features a man saying “You probably won’t believe this, but my dog ate my W-2’s.” This classic excuse from our childhood sounds ludicrous and laughable from this man who is clearly behind in his taxes.
A Culture of Non-Responsibility
Part of the power of this ad, besides the humor, is that it touches on the culture of non-responsibility. Recently I watched an interview with TV personality and creator of West Coast Choppers, Jesse James, about his divorce from Sandra Bullock and the challenges that have followed. In the interview James departed from his earlier declaration, “There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me”, now saying, “God or whoever you believe in must have thought I was pretty strong to lump all of that on me.” His initial desire has been harder to live out and now someone other than himself is the source of the brokenness that stems from his choices.
The challenge for James and all of us is to take responsibility for our actions. There is such a great temptation to nuance our story so that we are the victim. Such revisions make allow us to feel better about our selves and make us much more sympathetic characters in the eyes of others.
Victimhood As Lifestyle
Yet I wonder if we, in the end, aren’t victimized by this type of nuance as we slowly create a perception further from reality. We can’t truly move past our faults and failings without honestly acknowledging them and taking responsibility for the messes that we make. Forgiveness and reconciliation, both from above as well as from others, begins when we honestly face our fears and failures. As tempting as it is to gloss over our painful chapters or concoct an alternate narrative, true hope, healing and character are found in taking responsibility for our actions.
What are your thoughts on “owning up”?
Thanks for reading,