Thursday, August 22, 2013


The scariest thing in the world is someone who feels justified.

To be justified goes beyond having a reason or rationale for your actions. It give your a reason or rationale to do something that you'd normally consider wrong, but...

Justification lets you break your personal rules of conduct without really breaking them. It lets you reconcile the internal incongruity that comes with such a violation, making wrong right, but only temporarily and for "good" reasons. In short, justification lets you simultaneously break a rule and keep it.

There's only one problem with justification, well, two problems. First, people do all sorts of crazy stuff when they feel justified. Pacifists kill. Friends sell out friends. Givers hoard. Lovers hate.

Second, justification doesn't really work. It doesn't reconcile the incongruity; it just masks it. Using justification to reconcile internal inconsistency is like patching a gap in the floor with tiling grout. You can make it look as though there's no gap, but best not step there.

You'd think that these two problems alone would be enough reason to avoid ever justifying anything. However, there's more. Justification feeds on itself.

You justify taking action that you'd normally consider wrong.

You sell it and others buy it.

Problem is that you don't buy it.

It eats at you.

Before you know it, you're rationalizing your having justified something that deep inside you still feel to be wrong. You're justifying your justifying.

Justification compounds justification. It's grows non-linearly, if not exponentially.

Justification can take a lot of work.

But wait, that's not all. There's one more problem with justification. Justification fragments a whole person into lots of tiny irreconcilable pieces. Each time you justify an action, you create another crack in you, a hairline crack, a small fissure, a large gap. You break up you into smaller and smaller chunks of situationally defined persona.

You end up with no you, just a bunch of pieces that refuse to be reconciled. You're one person with one group and someone else with another. Heaven forbid they all get together for a party.

How do you avoid justification? How can you tell the difference between offering a reason for an action and justifying an action?

You can tell by how you feel when you offer that reason or explanation. If you feel defensive, then you're likely justifying.

What's the alternative to justifying actions that you can't reconcile with your personal code? After all, we all do so from time to time.

My favorite is pretty straight forward. I look at what I did and say, "Hmm... I screwed up. I don't want to do that again."

And then I move on.

Alternatively, I might say, "Wow, I totally violated my personal rule. That was a dumb rule. Let's dump it."

How much of what you do, do you feel the need to justify? How often do find yourself feeling defensive? Do you ever find yourself being one person here and another there?  How would your life change if you never justified or defended anything you did?

Happy Thursday,

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