I used to lie all the time. Like most male idiots, I embellished my sex life, my prowess, my intelligence and my general level of overall cool.
Ten years of hard lessons has taught me that’s a terrible fucking idea.
I used to have difficulty owning up to my mistakes. It’s still an unfortunate first tendency from time to time, though I’ve learned that to truly be responsible for ourselves, we have to own up to all of our behaviour, good and bad.
I see reflections of myself in others from time to time, most often from co-workers and acquaintances. I know one particular fellow who no matter how clear the evidence against him, no matter how absurd and easily debunked the excuse, will still try to lie his way out of any responsibility for any mistake, no matter how minor. It is always somebody else’s fault, or the system or some bullshit made up story that everyone just rolls their eyes at.
And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, though in the world of chronic deceit, he’s the poster child for those who are unequivocally and completely full of shit.
I understand the desire not to want to admit to fucking up or bad behaviour. I’ve done it enough. In retrospect, however, I think back to all those denials and bluffs and at no point, did I actually feel good about them. I always felt guilt. I always felt shame.
What I’ve learned is that while we’re not responsible for everything in our lives, good and bad, we are responsible for ourselves – our behaviour and our reaction.
We get to choose what we do with our lives, with the situation at hand, no matter what it is. How we react, what we do, it’s on us.
That said, that makes it sounds like we need to be perfect and make perfect decisions all the time.
That, however, is ridiculous.
We’re none of us born with total self-awareness. That’s either taught to us (if we are lucky and have the right influences) or we learn it, on our own, through experience.
That’s where forgiveness comes in.
I was young and stupid and made a lot of mistakes. I did and said a lot of stupid things. I told lies, I pretended to be more than I was and it didn’t serve me.
All I’ve learned from that is that it didn’t make me feel good to be that kind of person.
Taking responsibility for their own behaviour is what distinguishes good people from bad, in my opinion.
People who understand that they are personally responsible for what and how they do things and accept whatever consequences come from that (through more than just lip service) are the only truly good people. They’re the only ones that truly understand that’s the only way to be free.
And that’s learned. It’s taken me forty-two years to get to that point.
The next trick is forgiving myself for all the bad stuff, so I can move on. Taking responsibility doesn’t need to mean punishing yourself forever.
I imagine most people would never stop punishing themselves if they started rehashing all the mistakes they made in their youth.
But we have to. That’s part of taking responsibility as well. You accept, you learn and you move on. Onward and upward, so to speak. We have a responsibility to perform better in the future, a responsibility to apply what we’ve learned to our present and our future.
Every step is a step forward.
And if we spend all our time looking back, we end up blind to what’s in front of us.