There are a few people out there who don’t like me. I know, I know. I’m as bewildered as you are. What’s not to like? I’m kind, I’m cooperative, I’m hard-working. I try to be the best me I can be.
Okay, I’m a little opinionated, but who isn’t? At least I’m always right.
And I’m always cool, calm, and collected. I never get angry.
Well, at least I don’t yell, curse, or throw things. I don’t make obscene gestures and tell people how utterly clueless and stupid they really are!! I don’t get carried away and create an ugly scene in the Walmart parking lot like that guy I saw last week!
I’m better than most people!
Whew! I even feel better now.
That’s exactly how I used to justify my less-than-perfect actions to my mother…by comparing them to the worst behavior of someone else. No matter what my sin or fault or mistake, I knew someone else had done something worse, and I certainly wanted to remind her that by comparison I was a saint!
I was careful not to actually blame someone else for my behavior. I tried that in the early, early years, as soon as I had a brother to blame for everything. Unfortunately Mom frowned upon lying. But I figured that comparing myself and my actions to someone worse couldn’t hurt my case.
Justification is a slippery slope.
It leads to denial and evasion and repetition. As long as you never acknowledge your mistake and take responsibility for it, you can go on repeating it forever.
Justification probably begins as soon as we can think, but I see it clearly in my classroom.
“He started it.”
“He made me do it!’
“He said he wouldn’t like me if I didn’t.”
“He was the one that hit him! I just watched!”
I start the school year by carefully explaining to my students that if they get in trouble, the first thing out of their mouth should be “I”, not the name of another student. They can’t explain their actions by telling me what someone else did. They quickly learn, as I did with my mother, that I’m much more impressed by honesty and remorseful admission than by clever comparison or justification.
Taking responsibility for my own actions was a lesson learned by painful trial and error, especially in my teen years. Even as an adult, I sometimes need a reminder when things go wrong.
My mother is gone now. My husband is accustomed to my quirky personality. My friends know that I have my good days and bad, and have decided to like me anyway. The people who don’t like me probably won’t change their minds any time soon. So I’m left to justify my actions to myself and to God. I find that one is much more forgiving than the other.
I fall short each day of the person I want to be, especially when I see others around me who are better, stronger, smarter. I sometimes say things I regret as soon as they leave my mouth. I voice opinions here that may be hurtful to others, though that is never my intention. I often fail to succeed, or to perform as well as others. I don’t live up to the expectations of friends and family.
But I’m thankful that God only expects me to make the most of the mind and heart and soul He gave to me, not the one He gave to you, or anyone else. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone. I don’t have to have the approval of anyone. I don’t have to defend my actions or my thoughts or my feelings. I just have to listen to God and be the best me I can be. And He is willing to work with me and let me start over and try again and again.
So, I may not really be better than most people…but I try to be a better ME than I was yesterday. And tomorrow…