Often times, when we look at our actions or behavior, or someone calls us out on something, we go through a justification process that involves some version of the following statement: "I'm not hurting anyone."
That statement is a warning sign just like a code smell. When you hear yourself make that statement, it's time for some introspection. This sentence is the poster-child of justification. The very need to say this to ourselves or others implies the real truth of the matter: you are doing something you know is wrong and defending your actions through justification.
It is easy to justify our behavior through the viewpoint that there is no victim. But the reality is that there IS a victim….YOU. You are the victim of your behavior.
The effects of this are serious in their psychological effects. As you engage in any behavior you know you shouldn't, you damage your relationship with yourself. This damage comes slowly and insidiously, but inevitably.
As we act against our moral code, justification or no, we become frustrated with ourselves, and our inability to control our own behavior. We begin to say "why can't I just….", "why can't I just not eat too many desserts", "why can't I just focus on work", "why can't I stop myself from losing my temper", "why can't I control my drinking". Whatever it is, we begin to see ourselves as broken. This is the beginning of the danger zone.
Photos by Derek Howard
In order to combat the feeling of brokenness, we may seek out those who "accept" our behavior. These "friends" are in the same place, looking for someone to validate their own behavior.
Good friends accept who you are without accepting all your behavior. Even with new friends who validate your behavior, that feeling of brokenness persists. We then try to hide from that feeling, which usually leads to even more extreme behavior, and can even lead to addiction.
What is the solution then? Integrity and self-control. Learning to be the same person when you're alone as when you're around others that you respect and look up to. Yes, you should forgive yourself when your behavior isn't what you want, and keep working on it.
It doesn't matter what the behavior is either. Whatever it is, if you act against your internal moral code, you will suffer the consequences. So how do you know if you are doing something like this? Simple. When do you reply "I'm not hurting anyone"? There's the thing you need to work on.
So what are you doing that "isn't hurting anyone"?
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