“We judge ourselves by our intentions, we judge others by their actions.”
This quote has been attributed to various people, but I first heard it from my husband B. He found it in a fortune cookie years ago and keeps it attached to his computer monitor at work as a reminder. While at first blush it seems to lack fortune-telling quality, your lack of adherence to its wisdom could affect your future by drowning you in a bowl of rancid alphabet soup with other people from time to time.
Maybe you’re okay with rancid alphabet soup? Or maybe you don’t notice – the stench, the chaos? Me? When I find myself in that stinking, confusing mess? My mind locks on the many times I’ve effed up in the past, all the times I was 100% sure I was right, but no, now look dammit! Let’s check off the list:
Jumping to conclusions without a full investigation? Check.
Possible condescension in tone? Check.
Anger about the issue removing empathy for the other? Check.
As a comment on reddit.com puts it: “When we make a mistake, we allow ourselves the excuse ‘but I meant well’. When others make mistakes, we assume they’re just f**ktards.”
Hmmm: “we assume”. How many times have we been reminded that that friggin word makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”, and yet? We still assume. Well, I still often do. Have you managed to get that one under control?
And here we find ourselves, all 7.8 billion of us on the planet, with our myriad backgrounds, colours and languages, dealing with responses to various major crises – a pandemic, a reckoning on race, a pending economic downturn, climate change – along with the minor crises of just being alive on planet Earth – severe weather, blown brakes on my rusted out jalopy, bright pink lipstick on the inside of my mask, again! – and it’s hard to cope, right? Are you finding it hard to cope and that everyone’s fuse is just a little shorter? Or, am I just making excuses for myself?
The noise out there is LOUD.
Politicians, bickering and lying. But, hasn’t this always been the case? Don’t they have to lie, you know, for our own good? Are they lying more?
And there’s so much “fake news”. Did it not exist before? Didn’t it used to be called “propaganda”? Or, is that somehow different?
And the “conspiracy theories”?! But, they existed before. Look at all the ones on JFK’s death – it was a “mob hit”, it was “umbrella man”, the “government did it”. Is it because social media spreads them further, faster now?
Anyway, what was I getting at? Am I worried I’m on the road to Hell because sometimes I forget B’s fortune cookie advice? Perhaps I should get a copy of it, attach it to my computer?
B says, “Well, at least you’re not doubling down. You’re admitting that you were wrong, right?”
And being wrong (yet again) makes me think of the Fonz from Happy Days. (You’d think I’d have more, that all of those childhood hours I spent in front of a TV would reap reams of details from various shows. No. This one bit of this one episode I do remember.) If you ever watched the show you’ll recall that the Fonz had way too big of an ego to be wrong. But the cast and events throughout the half-hour (including commercial breaks to refill the chip bowl) showed the Fonz that he’d indeed been indisputably wrong. (It’s a thing you may fantasize about in real life, cornering your opponent, saying just the right thing at just the right time to make your very valid point. But, as you know, it NEVER happens this way.)
And the Fonz goes, “I was wrrr, I was wrrr, I was wrrr.” I don’t know how many “wrrr”’s it takes before he actually says “wrong”, but it’s a memorable scene. It made me appreciate the Fonz even more, you know? Because, as hard as it was, he did admit it.
Some people can’t say, “I was wrong.” But in our dealings with them? We must remember their intentions are likely good. And if they’re just paving their own personal road to Hell? Their choice, not yours.