Your Story is Not an Excuse

I've made it clear how cynical a person I am. My wife often laughs at the difference between us because she can readily do a "trust fall" backwards into my arms. Whereas I cannot. Sure, you might say that's due to the fact that she's 6 inches shorter than me and my 230 pounds would probably pulverize her if I tried. Then again, I find it funny how many reasons I have for not trusting people.

photo credit: gualtiero via photopin cc
For kids, security is found at home with the family. And for me, mine was shattered when I was 15-years-old. My parents got divorced, my church family talked about us behind our backs, and my trust of people in general plummeted. I got depressed and suicidal. My life sucked so who could blame me for becoming insular and misanthropic? I was a cold, hardened jerk who couldn't encourage those around me because I was too self-involved with my own story. But I'm not alone. Every day, people justify their behavior with their history.

We do this to avoid the fact that we're all awful people. Think about it, the abusive father never felt love from his own dad. Gangbangers shoot up their neighborhood because society failed them. And Osama bin Laden was heart-broken over the intrusion of western culture into his world. We all have reasons for why we do the terrible things we do. But just because we have a reason doesn't mean we have the right.

That's not to say that your story doesn't matter. To the contrary, listening to a person share their history or pain is imperative to understanding them. It certainly helped my wife understand me. It's just that too often, we use that pain as a crutch to play the victim. And since the world's jury loves a good victim, it means that we can get away with murder and chalk it up to a bad childhood. It means that we can try to cover up this diseased human stink with some clever rationalization that "we all have our stuff."

Rather than use our stories to make excuses, we should use them to elicit empathy. We all need people in our lives. Even cynics like me. And the only way to build those necessary relationships is to be vulnerable--to share what weighs us down and holds us back. Not so we can take advantage but so that other people can extend us grace. Which is important because knowing you and me, we're gonna need it.

No matter what society says, you're just as selfish as I am and you will intentionally hurt other people over and over again. But it's better to be a horrible person with a supportive community helping you be better, than an awful person no one wants to be around.