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08 April 2008

Losers, Loathing & Lessons

"It's too bad losers or failures don't give seminars. Wouldn't that be valuable?" We could sit back and say, "Pete ... Henry ... Mary ... Jessica, you've screwed up your life for forty years. If I bring a notepad, and promise to take good notes, would you spend a day with me? Would you teach me all the things NOT to do?"
- Jim Rohn

I got one of those chain emails the other day where we are supposed to be thankful for all of our life's trials and tribulations. The logic goes that by having a throbbing stress headache, we shouldn't bemoan the pain and pressure; we should instead be thankful for having a job, or whatever, that gives us the stress in the first place. Right. And perhaps even be thankful for having enough grey matter in our noodle that still responds to stress by creating a mind altering head ache in the first place? There is of course a certain level of absurdity in focusing too much on what ails us; and the flashbacks to Great Aunt Ethel complaining incessantly about her gout lay testament to that.

BUT, as a parent who seldom lets a teaching moment go by without a mention, (or as Emily might say: Lectures Like it is Going Out of Style) the least desirable behaviors in others can also serve as helpful fodder for us to prove our point.


The anonymous scrote bag in the news who beat his wife, molested little kids or shot at the police are easy targets. They are known only to us for their misdeed. And demonizing them is easy, is fair game and is one-dimensional.

But what if the best lesson for how not to act is a little closer to home? A little less anonymous?

  • The relative who repeatedly lies, manipulates and undermines to get their way?
  • The associate who performs selfless acts in public, but is a conniving, vindictive and unstable bee-atch in private?

The easy (and trite) answer is that the truth will set us free, that character is what we do when nobody is looking and right is right and wrong is wrong. These are tenets I believe in and preaching them like gospel reinforces that belief, commitment and resolve. But as we have surely learned: preaching and practicing are different, dear brothers and sisters.

How about the appointed leader who beats their chest with grandiose plans of conquest, but whimpers when the the moment of truth arrives? Don't you loathe what some people do - or don't do - when they are in a position of leadership and they fail to act? Or worse, abuse that position?

"An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep."
- Arab proverb

The best antidote for this is to of course prevent them from being in that position in the first place. In our own failure to act, we sometimes would rather brush aside (or promote, or ignore or placate, etc.) the undesired behavior in hopes that it will either self correct or at least be someone else's problem. Maybe that even appears to work sometimes.

But we already know don't we, for example, that liars that lie and that are not held accountable merely become more accomplished liars? What is the cost of addressing that behavior, regardless who it is? What is the cost of ignoring that behavior?

So how do you balance the importance of capturing the lessons learned from the misdeed of someone you know with the sensitivity of the potential cost of disrupting a previously harmonious and functioning relationship?

***
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4 comments:

Two Date Diva said...

I try my best (not always successfully) to separate the behavior from the person. Behavior, good or bad, does not necessarily make the (wo)man. Trying to keep to my spiritual path I strive not to judge, yet hold accountable, people for their actions. I try to keep in mind that we all come from the same place and that place is the ultimate in goodness. It's our own flaws and egos that distort that goodness, but deep down no matter how hideous someone's behavior is, they still came from goodness and have that potential within them if they choose it.

Michael M. said...

Thanks for taking the high road Diva...

So when the potentially good person's hideous behavior negatively impacts your life, does it really matter why they do it? Or does it matter more that their bad choice is screwing up your game and you need/want them to stop on your schedule instead of waiting for them to choose to be good again??

Speaking of spirituality and such, please stay tuned for my upcoming series on Religion...it should be a barn burner. :)

Two Date Diva said...

I do struggle more when the person's behavior impacts my life, but that's where my great detachment skills come in to play. (Thanks Mom!) I generally try to disengage from that person as much as humanly possible for my own sanity's sake. Why they do it doesn't really matter to me. It's nice to understand why a person behaves a certain way, but even if someone behaves irresponsibly because they had a bad childhood or whatever, they are still responsible for and choose their current behavior.

Michael M. said...

Great comments Diva, thanks for your insight.

I should try your Detachment approach...I don't think the "I no speaka de English" is working anymore!