Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

You Promote What You Permit

When I first began hearing this phrase years ago, I thought it was kind of simplistic and vaguely annoying. Life is too complex for behavioral responses to be guided by a catchy bromide. And yet…

The older I get, the more I begin to recognize the moral responsibility inherent in this statement. There are a couple of ways to interpret this, and they are related by an underlying principle of human nature. Thinking about this, I have begun to realize that one of my strengths is also one of my weaknesses. Let me explain – my personality dictates that I achieve any given goal with the resources I have available, that is, when dealing with humans, I am a realist. I accept people for who they are, and I don’t expect them to change. I have no illusions about somehow motivating them to behave in a manner different from what I observe. Instead, I figure out how to “make things work” with any given goal by enlisting their help only so far as might be expected given their past actions. This way I can move forward and not be sidetracked by “disappointing” behavior from those I am working with. Instead, I fully understand the limits of what this person is capable of, and I expect nothing else.

This has served me well in life, and it creates a lot less stress. The problem with this approach, however, is twofold. In the context of a work environment, it doesn’t give people room to grow. And in the greater context of society, it enables morally reprehensible behavior.

Realizing this is making me rethink my approach to others. I am still in the process of figuring this out, but I have recently found myself in situations where I realized the ethically correct response involved considering the greater good as opposed to realistic problem solving. If someone you are working with is behaving in a manner that is toxic to themselves or others, don’t they deserve a chance to be called out on it so they can correct it? Maybe they don’t realize the effect they are having on everyone around them? Maybe by not speaking up you are depriving them of the opportunity to grow? Maybe by not expecting them to be able to change, I am enabling their dysfunction…

In the context of society, it’s easy to look back at the zeitgeist of Germany in 1933 and see what happens when “good” people don’t speak up and take action. These are questions I am wrestling with personally. The realist (cynic) in me says “Accept what you see as reality and try to do the right thing with what you have,” when perhaps I should be trying harder to actually change things that are wrong. I’m not sure – I’m a 60 year old cancer survivor who is acutely aware that I have a limited amount of time left. I intend to enjoy it and not waste precious time and energy trying to change things that are out of my control. On the other hand