From children, to teenagers, to grown ups, “Everybody does it” seems to be a common rationalization for almost anything we want it to be. Whether we’re talking about: kids trashing each other on social media, girls wearing skimpy clothes, teenagers “hooking up” for the hell of it, adults swinging, married men and women having affairs, men yelling at the office, high school and college students using drugs, men and women divorcing, people looking at porn, parents slapping and spanking their children etc., it seems that the idea that “everyone is doing it” somehow makes “it” all okay.
A few examples of this include:
- Miley Cirrus’s recent response to her performance at the VMA awards: “Everyone’s done it. I wasn’t even thinking about it. You all are thinking about it more than I ever did. Madonna’s done it. Brittany’s done it. Everyone’s done it.”
- A father’s response when questioned about hitting his children: “All my friends parent their children this way. I was raised this way and they need discipline.”
- Women’s responses when asked about having repeated one-night stands and “playing men:” “Why not? Men do it. Why can’t we? It’s our time to do what all the guys have done to us throughout history.”
First off, let me just say that everyone is NOT doing “it”—whatever “it” may be for you. The reality is that the people you are hanging out with are doing “it.” Your support group, friends, co-workers or family members are doing “it,” but make no mistake that the people with whom you surround yourself are not “everybody.” The truth is, you are whom you hang out with, and people don’t like to hang out with those who are not like them. So perhaps a more accurate sentiment to use is “all my friends are doing it” or “all the guys I know do it” or “all the teenage girls I know act/dress like this.”
Once you realize that those in your circle are doing what you’re doing, then you can see it for what it is: a select group of people choosing to behave in a certain way and to influence one another to continue to behave in that same way. Influencing one another to behave similarly helps increase a sense of belonging and sameness while also relieving the sense of guilt and shame that would normally be involved in hurtful behaviors. Similarly, influencing one another to do positive behaviors would also increase a sense of belonging and strengthen the person’s resolve that their actions are part of a just cause. All human beings are pulled to want to belong. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals helps to fill that need regardless of whether those individuals are hurting or helping others.
Many people think that if others are doing that “it” thing, then “it” must be okay. But, it’s not okay.
It’s…not…okay. It’s not okay to act in hurtful ways—either toward yourself or toward others—and ignorantly justify your actions because others are doing the same thing. There are people all over the world who rape, kill, abuse and hurt others without thinking twice about it. Do not make these people your compass point. There are countless male “players” in the world who take pride in sleeping with as many women as they possibly can and who laugh at the trail of broken hearts they leave in their wake. Do not make them your justification for doing the same. There are far too many human beings mocking, bullying and harming others on a daily basis. Their actions are harmful; they cause pain for countless numbers of people. And they harm our world. Don’t justify this behavior–change it. Almost everywhere you turn you can see teenage girls starving themselves, cutting themselves and sleazing themselves out. Dare to learn from their mistakes — don’t be destined to repeat them.
The next time you hear yourself justify your actions by saying, “Everyone does it,” I encourage you to ask yourself if that truly makes it okay? Ask yourself if you would be okay if someone did that same thing to you or if your mother/father/child/friend did the same behavior. The lens through which you judge your own behavior is not the lens of what others are doing, but rather how what you’re doing is adding to our world or taking away from it.
Don’t go along because you can. Be courageous enough to step out and take positive action in a world that would benefit from more leaders than followers.
Challenge: Gandhi said it best when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Don’t allow sheer numbers to distract you from doing your part to not only help yourself, but to help others in the process. If “it” diminishes you or others then take a stand and go against the grain, not with it.