When I first got married I hated conflict. The thought of an argument made me nervous and so I avoided upsetting conversations with my husband all the time. If I was angry about something, instead of voicing my upset, I would go underground and act it out rather than talk it out. As you can imagine, this would be very difficult to live with.
Fortunately over the years I learned the error of my ways and worked like crazy to learn to speak up and stop acting things out. However, during those first years I remember justifying my anger and seldom thinking that I was at all wrong with my behavior. Seeing the mis-behavior of others was so obvious that it didn’t occur to me to look at my own.
Sound familiar? Human beings justify our own screw-ups all the time, while condemning the screw-ups of others ad-nauseam. We are quick to let ourselves off the hook for poor behavior, yet can make others pay for their bad behaviors for decades. Understandably, this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to relationships, jobs and even life.
Living a good life is about bringing our best selves to the table at all times. The truth is, I wasn’t passive-aggressive because of what my husband did or didn’t do. I was passive-aggressive because that was MY dysfunctional way of handling problems. As soon as we get caught up in thinking that “we do what we do because others do what they do,” we’re all in trouble. The same is true when we think, “We are who we are and others should just accept us.” I’ve heard more excuses, justifications and blame for people’s poor behavior to last me a lifetime. I’ve even done my own fair share of all of these. These moves, however, aren’t serving us.
We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to do better. We all benefit when we have the wherewithal to act with integrity, accountability and courage in life. Bringing our best selves to the table changes our lives and our relationships. Doing so, however, can feel like a herculean feat at times. It sometimes requires facing the fire rather than avoiding it, looking at ourselves rather than others and daring to do the right thing when every fiber of our being may be pulling us to do the easy thing.
Bring your best self to the table, not only in your relationships, but also in life. Refuse to justify your poor behavior because of the poor behavior of others and instead clean up your side of the equation. If you rage, stop justifying your anger and start becoming safe to those around you. If you lie, stop making up a thousand excuses for your lies and find the courage to be honest—despite the possible fallout. If you silence, stop giving others the cold shoulder because you believe they deserve it and instead have courageous conversations.
Integrity feels good regardless of the outcome. Bring your best self to the table.
Challenge: Pay attention to all the ways you justify your poor behavior by pointing your finger at others. Refuse to point this week. Focus on your behavior only and commit to bringing your best self to the table.