Sunday, November 6, 2011

What we pretend to be

There were times in my legal career when I insisted that I played a role whenever I went into court. It didn't happen all of the time, but there were times when I'd yell, rant, rave and bring any other unpleasant tactic or rhetoric to bear as long as it advanced my cause.

I believed it was fake. That I was doing those things in a calculated manner in order to bring about my desired outcome. But I came to realize that it didn't matter what I thought I was doing. To the people in that courtroom, I wasn't acting like an ass. I was an ass. My intentions were irrelevant. It was what I did that defined me.

It's no accident that I lost my enthusiasm for the law around the time of this realization.  I could no longer pretend that as long as I could come up with a justification for what I was doing that what I did was justifiable. Because it simply wasn't true.

There is not a "real" you or me underneath it all. We are what we do. We are how we treat others. It's OK to fail, because people fail. It's OK to fall short of our objectives because that happens too. And sometimes we simply don't have any choice at all and are forced to engage in the least odious of several odious options.

But it's not OK to create fictions about who and what we are or to hide behind our amorphously described better intentions when we willingly do wrong. There is no such thing as doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It's just the wrong thing.

As the man once said: we are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

Say what you mean. Behave how you'd like to be treated. Understand that you are not your only audience and rarely your most important one.  It seems so simple. Yet so many people seem to have such a hard time with it.