This is about the stories we tell ourselves. I’m puzzling over honor because I”m wading through the results of what I thought was doing the right thing. It’s not my first time to the puzzle.
I read many fables as a child that described an immediate balance in the world — The Ant and the Grasshopper; Cinderella, the good daughter who someday her prince did come. . . So as an adult, I expect reciprocity for honorable action. I know, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Great quote from Dr. King. It might be that sort of vision only comes in a combination of unwavering expectations of good in human nature and faith. Maybe those two things are the same and not a combination at all.
We know that we’re supposed to be good. We tell ourselves that we do the right things — even if they don’t benefit us — even if sometimes they cause us harm.
In 2009, Eric and I decided to help a young family out. They had made some bad decisions but they seemed like good people who deserved another chance. We were happy to be the ones to provide that chance (direct benefit — feeling like we were good people). We entered into a 2-year, $130,000 partnership where we carry 97% of the load.
I dearly want to believe that each individual has a similar idea of and motivation toward honor but that’s not true. Giving up that belief is a great cost, one that I’m not willing to give up easily for the rest of the world.
Are there those of you out there reading this who know me who are saying, “She can’t believe others are drawn to honor; she doesn’t like that many people.” It’s true that my perception of missing honor will knock someone off my list quicker than anything else. I’m done. I don’t understand the rules in the game that you play without a moral compass so I won’t play.
In this case, the results of my belief have not been so good. The stories that the couple is telling us, that they must tell themselves come from a place we can’t see. The stories are manipulations, having less to do with what is and more to do with getting a decision that benefits them. Mutual benefit has never really been on the table even when I feel that we keep putting it back there (at a loss). We obviously weren’t believable. Sigh.
Their stories include righteous needs with no contribution to the problem. I expect that they consider their words are honorable words.
To us, the stories are blatantly untrue. I’m very puzzled as to how these two perspectives can be reconciled. How can you look at something and tell yourself that it’s something else? However, I’m not outside of that same fault line. I don’t think you are either.
Can honor mean focusing on family benefits first and foremost? I understand paying attention to an inner circle first; but when that happens (I said if but then realized that it always happens at some point), it’s wrong to tell ourselves a fable that makes our actions honorable.
We need to acknowledge that we do what we do for selfish reasons and not try to polish off the smoot. And we need to carry a little shame as the cost. Maybe that’s what people mean when they say, “It is what it is.”
If you don’t know me and while you’re reading this you think, “What an idiot to get in to a deal without more leverage! I think I’ll see if I can arrange a partnership too,” I’m all tapped out for now. Maybe you can catch me later, if you appear to me to be in need and a good person. And maybe you can’t. It depends on what I’m willing to give up. Optimism or cash.
How about the rest of you? What would you choose?