Over the years there have been some phrases I’ve coined, not that any of them have actually caught on outside my circle, but profound and powerful nonetheless.
This one has been a part of me for quite some time. I use it to defend myself at times, and I use it to try and help others recognize the power they have over themselves to change.
“It doesn’t matter what you are, as long as YOU know what that is….”
The powerful part of this statement is what it connotes rather than what it actually says. Because, if you’re a mass murderer, knowing what you are does not justify what you do. In fact nothing is simply justified by what you do. We are justified because knowing what we are gives us the power to take the first step towards change.
I’ve had several friends who battled alcoholism. Those who overcame their addiction will tell you that the very first step was admitting they had a problem.
If you’re an alcoholic, a drug addict, a sex addict, a wife beater, a thief, a liar or an asshole of any sort, it’s okay. The important thing is that you recognize these faults within yourself and make a genuine effort to act on that knowledge and affect change.
Everybody has room for improvement. In fact what some people are is blind to knowing what they are; too arrogant and too selfish to think for a moment that they have anything to overcome.
Meanwhile, I don’t want to suggest that we are constantly down on ourselves for our habits and failings. That’s counter productive in itself. Rather, find joy in the fact that you have the power and insight to know what you are. Rejoice that you have the strength and courage to change who you are and better yourself, your character, your circumstances and your life for your own well being, and for the sake of others.
Me? I have a very low tolerance for people. I don’t like selfishness, arrogance or stupidity on any level. Knowing this about myself helps me to better deal with those things in people. I’m overly kind to others and often allow them to walk over me because I’m really trying to overcome my own failings; the desire to smack them upside the head. I often get myself into personal (and professional) situations where my failure to speak up causes things to get worse rather than better. So for me, it’s a delicate balance where I need to learn more patience and more tact.
I have two step sons. It has been a challenge for me to be the kind of father I feel I need to be for them while trying not to upset the balance of being a stand-in father. All kids need to have things pointed out to them at times and they need to be guided in knowing what they are; all in the spirit of change.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need to strive to be better people. Maybe the next time some arrogant soul points out your failings you can look at them and say, “You know? I never realized that about myself, but I want to thank you for pointing it out.” That puts the power back in your hands to become a better person. And maybe they’ll recognize their own failings in that moment and put some time and attention to their own character.