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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Projections of the Way I Used to Be

You ever make a boneheaded mistake or  poor choice that you were not proud of?   You ever hurt anybody in way you weren't proud of?   You ever fail as a parent in a big way?   You ever just fail in a big way you weren't proud of?  I think everyone has been there.  Sometimes or some people may want to talk out those situations or circumstance, but other times and other people will not.  I think sharing with the world all your dirty laundry can be really dumb, but avoiding it all costs is just as foolish.   For me, I've never been one to brag on social media or elsewhere or otherwise just breathlessly admit failures.  For me, it can be like the "Wanna Get Away" commercials from Southwest Airlines.  If I were to wrecked my car, the last thing I want to do is admit on social media about it.  For me it feels like admitting that I'm a terrible driver--even if that is not a proper characterization. I'd rather be just wanting to get away and to pretend the bad thing or mistake never happened.

I've noticed an interesting tendency that some people have.  Sometimes when people make mistakes or bad choices or otherwise fail in a way that would be humiliating--or condemning if known, they will try to secretly 'atone' for it rather own it.  Some examples:
  • Rep. Mark Foley - He was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, yet he was found to have inappropriate communications with a young page.  He "couldn't" publicly own his failings, but by chairing the committee, he could at least feel better about himself.  That is, in his mind, perhaps he could privately even the scorecard.  He'd be helping more people than he hurt or so he might think.  Never mind, his failing would be seized on by those that he had helped to expose.  
  • Ministers/priests who have come down hard on sexual deviancy, but later have been found to have engaged in it themselves.  They can't own their own 'sin' publicly, but they could feel better about themselves.  After all, by cleaning up deviancy in the community, they WERE doing the "Lord's work".  Never mind, that they were compromised and were privately undermining the "Lord's work" in the process.
The mindset appears to be, if I do enough good, it will atone or cover for the mistakes or bad choices I've made.   Anyone who knows anything about a recovery program realizes how flawed that thinking is.  It is important to own up to your bad or failures as it is to own up to your good or successes.  Not doing so
  • Can undermine your credibility on your good.  In other words, good that is seen as a way of atoning for hidden or minimized bad, will probably be discredited as soon as the bad comes out.  Even if the good was done with the best intentions, if it is tied to the bad, it will probably be seen as being done strictly out of bad intentions. 
  • Deprives you of an opportunity to grow and potentially become a positive spokesperson of sorts.  Our culture can be VERY forgiving.   
    • In the movie Catch Me If You Can, the lead character Frank Abagnale Jr. runs into trouble after his parents divorce, and commits widespread fraud, the most notable of which is check fraud.  He spent time in a maximum security prison before FBI agent Carl Hanratty, who was the one that tracked him down and eventually caught him, convinced his superiors to let Frank serve out the rest of his sentence on the outside while helping the FBI with check fraud.  Mr. Abagnale was forced to face his mistakes and instead of continuing his failed path, he turned it around and did right by society.  He owned up to whom he was and accepted the cost of it.  Doing so allowed him to move on and become example of prison leading to a successfully reformed convict.
    • Robert Downey Jr. struggled with drug addiction for years.  But he owned up to his failures and he was given a second chance legally and career-wise.  He is now recognized as a successful man and actor and a serious voice in the national conversation.
  • Can deprive you of the ability to make amends or fix the problem on terms more favorable to you.  Anyone who follows politics knows that politicians who get in front of bad news tend to survive the consequences thereof better.   It's painful to do so, but as Bill Clinton's survival  before and during his presidency indicates, owning up to bad news rather than hiding from it can help you out in the long run.
I've been guilty of something a little bit different than that.  I have sometimes misplaced or projected my feelings onto another mistake or screw-up.  In other words, I'd be VERY harsh on myself for something smaller, but will not want to talk about the bigger screw-up.  Inevitably, I noticed in those type of situations, when I don't own up properly to my mistake or failing, it still had a way of getting back at me.  Over the years, I've lost a friendship or two by not owning up to properly to a/some mistake(s) or failing(s) at the time.

Eventually, bad news comes out and people aren't happy when they've heard it elsewhere.  By owning up to much to a lessor screw-ups when in reality I felt bad about something worse,  I was projecting my shame onto a small/smaller mistake.   It's sort of like dismissing culpability in an accident, but beating yourself up over cutting off someone off yesterday during a drive.   No, if I caused an accident, then I should own up properly to my role in it, even if doing so would expose reckless driving.   Pretending or minimzing my role in it, but then saying, but you know I have inadvertently cut others off before is sort of ludicrous. But that's essentially is the driving version of what I'm talking about.

It's hard to own up fully to mistakes, but in the long run, it is better for all who might be involved.  To do otherwise is essentially like a half-hearted apology or a half-hearted acknowledgement of role or culpability.  Beating yourself more over old news, doesn't help if you need to own up or atone for 'today'.    If I break the fine china and try to hide that fact, but tell you out of guilt or shame that I dropped and broke a glass, it doesn't help you.   For when it time for you to pull out and use the fine china, you will find out then that it is not available and you will be more upset that I hid that I broke it.  My displacement of it by condemning myself too much about breaking a glass, doesn't really solve anything.  Just saying...

I'm sure other can relate.

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