Thursday, July 09, 2009

Naughty Joe

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

The first time I ever heard that expression I giggled. It just seemed so naughty.
The goody-goody part of me questioned the wisdom of such a sentiment, but since the consequences seemed fated to fall on the speaker, and not me, I didn't worry about it too much.

I heard that expression again and again over the years, and I've finally stopped giggling.

It seems a reflection of the way society is today. And it also reminds me of why I've quit therapy in the past.

You see we seem to be in a world now where everyone is expected to be so understanding and possessed of a sense of humour about anything and everything.

Now this post is not about to advocate for a pull-back on compassion and empathy - but it certainly will be addressing the fact that no one seems to have to hold themselves accountable for their actions anymore.

The quitting therapy thing? Was because I got sick and tired of the therapist excusing every single not-so-stellar action and thought that I had. You were bitchy to your friends? That's OK, it's because you lost your mother when you were 11. You hate your job and want to quit? That's OK, you should totally quit, even though you have a mortgage and live alone and most likely won't get Employment Insurance. Go ahead.

Extreme examples that never really happened (Well, OK I did quit the job, but I knew I was taking a risk) but they prove the point. I don't think people should necessarily always feel that they are the victim when they do something wrong. I don't think that the fact that I want to do something, means that I should discount the objections of others and expect forgiveness for doing so.

The problem is? People seem to think that everything should be understood. Let's look at some completely offensive blog posts I've read lately. There have been some, that in my mind, are genuinely shocking and inappropriate, not to mention stupid. Now when I see those, I read enough to get offended, and then move on to the next post. I'm not a fan of playing editor in the space the a virtual stranger has claimed in the bloggiverse. I also get offended by Ben Stiller. But some people like him. Live and let live.

But? When someone quite rightly does say something? Is it necessarily the correct reaction to get offended that someone had the audacity to criticize your words? To make fun of them for even politely pointing out that you did something not in the best of taste? To accuse them of being uptight and having no sense of humour or being some kind of racist/feminist/fascist/elitist?

Maybe, you should own the fact that you may have made an error in judgement, consider whether your actions might have affected someone else, and take responsibility for it. Because like it or not, your actions, my actions, their actions affect other people in this world. And why else are we on this planet except to make the world a better place for everyone? Do the best you can to be happy, and cause as little damage along the way as possible.

I've mentioned before that I wrote a blog post once that lost me 2 friends. And I've tried to convince myself that the punishment was disproportionate to the offense. And maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. Even so, I can't get over the fact that I did something to hurt some of "my people." And for that, I need to take ownership of the situation, acknowledge that what I did was wrong, and do my best to make amends.

Why is it that behaving badly, making inappropriate jokes and having a general disregard for the feelings of those around us is now something that we should simply accept about a person? If we accept that "oh Joe's just a jerk, you get used to it" then why should Joe ever change his behaviour? Why is it that the onus is on everyone else in the world to adapt to the sinner?

Am I advocating intolerance? No. Am I claiming that we shouldn't condone bad behaviour? Yes.


AmyTree said...

I can't get the link to work, but if you go to YouTube and serch for "Steve Hughes on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow" you'll get a rather funny routine about political correctness and 'bring offended' (starts about 3.40 in). I think it'll make you laugh... :-) xx

AmyTree said...

I meant 'BEING offended', clearly. x

Jess said...

I totally agree. And I also think that your therapist sounds bogus. Therapy isn't about someone justifying everything you've done. It's supposed to be about someone helping you understand so that if there are things that you'd rather not do, you can avoid doing them again.

canadian sadie said...

Amen! Three cheers for personal responsibility and social accountability!

Rock Chef said...

You are so right!

Difficult kids are told that it isn't their fault they feel that they have to attack other children. Useless parents are told it isn't their fault that their kids rampage through the streets terrorising old people. Criminals think it is the drugs that make them bad...

I do something dumb, it is my fault, end of story.

Becky said...

This was a fabulous post! Way to put it out there.

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