Why Can’t I Justify My Wrong Decisions?

The attempt to justify error is a vain quest, a philosophical dead end, an exercise in self-deception.  But why do so many people try to do it then?  Why do people attempt to make the claim “A decision I made which caused pain and suffering to myself and others was really right and/or reasonable?”

People would rather not admit that they couldn’t keep from scratching the itches of the animal soul.  People would like to believe they’re more than animals, even if they sometimes act like one.  People would rather not confront what Carl Jung called the “shadow.”

People wish to anesthetize themselves from the pain their mistakes have caused themselves and others.  While there may have been some value obtained from the poor choice, an effort is being made to assert the non-existence of the suffering involved, or to minimize the heartache.  In any case, the effort to redact one’s experience is a project of dishonesty, a construction of a false self which is apart from life.

Some people might say, “Well, I learned something from my errors that I might not have learned any other way.”  I pondered on this for a while.  In the story of the Prodigal Son, there was a wise, obedient son who learned of his father’s goodness without having to go through the tribulations of his foolish brother.  Could that be the reason the older brother was in the story?  To show that it’s possible to learn some other way than the hard way?

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2 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Justify My Wrong Decisions?

  1. Absolutely yes, this is obviously not right to justify, “A decision I made which caused pain and suffering to myself and others was really right and/or reasonable.” We do not like to think of ourselves as animals acting on those animal spirits.

    However, to me this step points to a more subtle and yet more damaging justification for error which is offered ad nausem in the “new age” community. It goes like this: “I made a mistake. Oh well, everything happens for the best. Everything happens according to God’s will and I just need to get with God’s plan to see the real purpose in my mistake.” If you must, see the many books from Ramesh Balsekar (a disciple of the Indian philosopher Nisargadatta) explaining this concept.

    This is so damaging because it creates a passive, child-like helpless attitude about life that we are weak and have no valuable role to play in the world. We are only actors in God’s play and we just need to be spiritual enough to understand this. If you don’t subscribe to this idea, well you obviously aren’t very spiritual.

    So, this practice of saying “everything happens for the best” in justification of our errors makes us weak and yet builds up the ego at the same time. As you mentioned, it is “a project of dishonesty, a construction of a false self which is apart from life.” This is such a terrible combination that suppresses human potential and contribution in the world. And yet, you can see it in people all the time.

    This step strikes a deep chord in me. Thank you for making this connection.

    Thank god for Steps to Knowledge to show me this error. There is hope for our world.

  2. I see what you are saying Mark about justifying errors with “everything happens for the best” and using this as a kind of cop-out. However, in my experience, this realization that “everything happens for the best” usually comes in hindsight, after the fact, after the mistake has unwittingly been made, and it can then be used wisely to pick yourself up and move on. I see it as making us weak only if we throw up our hands and say, “why should I make an effort if everything happens according to God’s plan anyway.” We still need to be the architects of our own lives, I think, and take responsibility for our actions, and errors.

    I have also been pondering the Parable of the Prodigal Son and whether the older brother is in the story “to show that it’s possible to learn some other way than the hard way.” But what did the older brother learn? He was angry that his younger brother was getting all the attention and having gifts showered on him for his waywardness. The lesson I would have learned in his shoes was – it pays to be foolhardy and doesn’t pay to stay home and do the right thing.

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