Friday, May 14, 2010

Withered

I recently saw one of those bumper stickers that says, "My kid beat up your honor student at such and such a high school" which, after a chuckle, gave me pause. While I appreciate the sarcasm, the sentiment behind the words--and the approval given therein, is a bit disturbing. I've been shocked lately by how many things are overlooked or accepted for the mere reason that there is a relationship with the people involved.

I admit it--I'm a painter that uses pigments of such variety and intensity, radiance, hue, luscious color--and yet I am absolutely guilty of black and white vision.

In a world where tolerance and acceptance reign supreme, I find myself the weary champion of common sense and distance. I am on the horse, sword in hand, charging the hoard of justification and explanations, the masses of excuse.

Why does it seem that when a person has a relationship with another--be it friendship, romance, or family--that judgement and perception become skewed as if reflected in a funhouse mirror? Stretched and smashed into a ludicrous replica of reality?

Everyone is quite horrified at the young mother who leaves her children in a state-funded daycare as she ditches work to indulge in "carnal frivolity" for the afternoon--yet the horror evaporates when it's whats-her-head's sister who is "going through a rough patch" with her boyfriend.

We're incensed at "Joe" who quits looking for a job and rides out the unemployment train for 6 months while playing guitar hero and eating nachos--until it's somebody's son who "just really needs a break right now."

"You can't blame poor Jane next door for having an affair--she's so lonely when her husband travels..."

We dismiss selfishness, explain affairs, justify cheating, even excuse stealing--all due simply to our proximity to the situation. What ever happened to distance? If you watched that particular movie on television, with total strangers making those choices, would you feel the same? Are we compromising our morality or are we merely a victim of familiar manipulation?

There is a right and a wrong.

I've lost friends over this, offended family, and irritated total strangers.

I am exhausted from listening to 40 minute defenses of the most irrational and destructive behavior. Since when do I need to agree with something simply because I know someone?? Where has our independent judgement gone?

Perhaps we allow or approve so as to leave room for our own possible indiscretions?

Are we splintering our evaluations? Fragmenting our ethics?

Please don't misunderstand--I am guilty beyond measure of several of the issues I raise....and I know it. Today I listened as a teacher at a local college told me how dumbfounded she was as she had caught two students cheating. And at the end of class, another--previously completely unknown--came to her and said, "I too, cheated." She almost hugged her.

Screwing up is human. Mistakes are not optional--they're part of our genetic make-up. It's how we learn, how we grow.....every chef has burned hundreds of meals. Every dancer falls, every painter paints one...make that dozens, that she covers in white gesso....and begins again.

However--it is in the knowing it is a mistake, in the admission....that is where we grow. To excuse is to stunt.

I am heartsick at some of the twisted shriveled vines that might have been magnificent trees....simply because they excuse, rather than admit.

Two of my favorite quotes:

"Don't compromise yourself; you are all you got." Janis Joplin

"You don't get to choose how you are going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now." Joan Baez



Choose well.

17 comments:

chris said...

"Screwing up is human. Mistakes are not optional--they're part of our genetic make-up. It's how we learn, how we grow.....every chef has burned hundreds of meals. Every dancer falls, every painter paints one...make that dozens, that she covers in white gesso....and begins again.

However--it is in the knowing it is a mistake, in the admission....that is where we grow. To excuse is to stunt."

Absolutely... & well said!

Kirsty said...

I hate hypocrisy - it's just as bad as the crime. Cheating is NEVER ok. Wrong is NOT excusable. Well written Chantel!

Danielle said...

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life. I have learned huge invaluable lessons from some and have learned nothing and kept repeating others.
I will try to teach my daughter that mistakes are human as long as you can learn from them.
As usual, great insight!

joeandbridge said...

Good Afternoon! Happy FF!
Have a Great Weekend!

Bridgette Groschen
Groschen Goblins

joeandbridge said...

Good Afternoon! Happy FF!
Have a Great Weekend!

Bridgette Groschen
Groschen Goblins

Annette said...

It's interesting that I read this entry just after a conversation with my daughter, who I'm teaching to sew. I told her of all the mistakes and "dumb" things I've done as I sew, and told her to expect to make mistakes. I love your perspective on accountability.

fickleinpink said...

thanks so much for sharing...
happy weekend!

hopping from FF…now a follower , too!

xoxo, fickle
cruisin'

Andy said...

Yeah, well said.. really made me think.

Tgoette said...

What a super post, Chantel. Thank you for yet another inspiring essay which reminds us to cop to our mistakes and not try to excuse ours or those of others. A great message, indeed!

Shrinky said...

Another wonderfully written piece, Chantel! We all screw up now and then, some more than others (I certainly do) The trick is to e accountable, and to put your hand up for damage caused. I wish I could say I see the world in black and white, but I can't. I am a different person than I was in my younger days, I like to think I have gained more compassion and empathy along the way - but only through experience and lessons learned along the way. If one of my children were ever to commit an unthinkable, horrendous act, I could never withdraw my love and support - but I hope I would never collude to condone it.

BTW, I agree, that bumper sticker is not funny, it's hideous!

Chantel said...

Chris--thank you!

Kirsty--hipocrisy just makes your stomach turn, doesn't it?

Danielle--I think those of us who have screwed up...well, we run a bit deeper--truly understand more. However, repeating the screw ups is dangerously close to dating stupidity.

Hi Bridgette--nice to meet you!

Annette--Accountability is what defines us, don't you think? More than money or fame or success...

Fickle--hey there! Thanks for stopping by...

Andy--making someone think is a awesome compliment--thank you!

Tom--excusing others--especially those close to us--leads to the lessoning, the losing of our own standards...how are we to raise strong families without these standards?

Shrinky--You're so right, empathy and compassion are the direct result of life lived and learned...but they're not the same thing as approval. There is love and hope in saying, "I'm so sorry that happened...do you think you will choose differently next time?" Everyone lives with their own consequences...but removing these, condoning the mistakes, is eroding the banks of the river that we all live next to.

Alyssa said...

"There is a right and a wrong" Bravo, Chantel!

I could not even begin to think I could have written this post...but how I agree with it. What shocks me, still, it that there is such a need for it, a need to explain how lost our moral compass has become, if in fact it exists at all.
But we are, I fear, obsessed with "relative morality".

Lola Sharp said...

Another thoughtful post, my friend. I agree with you, but I hate more when people feel entitled to cheat or steal. I have a neighbor who openly admits to paying for one bag of mulch, and then going out and loading up several bags.
Yes, I firmly explained how the rest of us have to pay for his theft. He refused to think it as theft, or wrong. (justified that he's getting over on the big chain store.)
Vile.

Have a wonderful week!
Love,
Lola

Lyra said...

Great quotes I am stealing them:)

Mom et al said...

This reminds me of a convesation I was having with a friend just the other day. There is excuse, and then there is taking responsibility for one's own actions.

Someone once said to me, "I am sorry if I hurt you." It never sat well with me because it wasn't a real apology. If. That one little word changes the meaning drastically.

"I am sorry I hurt you." That is taking responsibility and owning the action.

Chantel said...

Alyssa--"relative morality" terrifies me!

Lola--I'll never understand how someone "refuses to think...." Like HOW do you do that?? When the facts are ____________, you know? Ostrich...sand.

Lyra--words to live by! :)

Maria--"if" changes the world, doesn't it? You put EXACTLY what I was aiming for in one paragraph. Responsibility isn't optional!

Steel Magnolia said...

Chantal, as always you nailed it. Integrity is the one virtue I will never compromise. Like virginity, once it is gone ... it is gone. Cheers!