I know all sorts of things I don’t do. I know that I should floss, but I don’t. I know that memorizing poems and bits of scripture will help my total memory, but I haven’t done that in a while. More importantly, there are all sorts of pitfalls and shortcomings general to humanity, to which there are solutions, but I find myself not applying my knowledge.
Let me explain: I very recently had breakfast with a friend of mine. We’ve begun meeting up every once in a blue moon just to talk about life, and how we’re learning and growing, what’s going on, etc. At breakfast, he asked me if I could give him a sort of comprehensive, condensed story of my life with an emphasis on the hard things- the struggles, the hardships, and what has defined me as a person. After thinking a bit and getting through it he said the most interesting thing to me. In something of a palm to face moment for me, he, in the most unassuming manner, pointed out that just about everything I had said was due to external difficulty and circumstances, and very little about internal difficulty, or problems stemming from myself and, not the environment.
I know all about the Actor Observer Effect. I aced Advanced Placement Psychology back in high school. I got the highest possible grade on the AP test. I know that people have this irrational manner of thinking where they attribute the problems of others to defects in character, whereas they attribute their own problems as due to circumstance. My father has a Master’s in this sort of thing, and we’ve talked about psychology many a time. Dang!
The moment he mentioned the high degree of externalities in my story I had to groan. I was doing the same thing. It’s probably even worse, because I’m aware of the phenomenon.
It’s amazing to me how (if I may dare to say) we are such hypocrites. I’m not talking about Vegetarians or Christians or Buddhists or Democrats or Republicans or any other specific group of people- I’m just talking about people. We have certain convictions. We have standards and beliefs. We have knowledge- and then we act contrary to it.
I don’t think this is something we should give into, but in some senses it’s inescapable. I’m not going to apply all of my knowledge, and I’m not always going to act in accordance with what I believe. I should! And I definitely should try, as should you (unless you believe that clubbing baby seals is a great pastime), but the emotion that this realization should evoke is compassion. Empathy.
See, it’s really easy to judge other people. “Don’t they know this? How could they fall for that? They’re so stupid.” Are they stupid? Maybe. But then again, so are you. So am I. What could be dumber than having the right answer and then doing something different? A spade is still a spade, and if a friend is doing something harmful, dangerous, or just plain dumb, I think we should still call each other out on it. But when we do, we should remember that we fall prey to the same thing, even if the way we fall to it looks a little different.
If you’re reading this right now, don’t worry- I know that you’re the exception. It’s just you and me in this world of crazy people, right?
*WARNING: The last two sentences of this post contain massive amounts of sarcasm. If you are nursing, pregnant, under three feet tall, or extremely sensitive, these lines should be avoided at all costs. Thank you.