“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” – Confucius
Today while I was browsing social media as I normally do when I look for inspiration (also known as extreme procrastination), I happened upon this little nugget of self-empowerment:
That’s a pretty bold statement; strong, confident, motivational.
And dangerously one-sided, incomplete.
I take no issue with the act of proverbially, socially, mentally, and emotionally cleaning house, but judging others’ intent and merit on the sole basis of tolerating bad behavior is an extremely slippery slope to navigate.
Allow me to elaborate.
As I tend to preach, and sometimes prattle on, we all make mistakes. We are not perfect examples of virtue. We, as human beings, are innately flawed, fragile, and fallible, with the incredible ability to adapt, improvise, and improve. The drive to excel, to better ourselves, makes for great stories of drama, heroism, MCU movies, Netflix Originals, telenovelas, etc. We all love a good underdog story, and we all love to hate villains. Such is the way of the world.
It is during this journey that we encounter the supporting cast of our own personal theater of the mind; family, friends, antagonists, foils, the love interest and the occasional one-night stand. These are the markers that impact our lives, that mold our views of the world, set the tone for our present condition, that set up that wonderful character arc we call a lifetime of experience, our own personal hero’s journey. What we choose to do with that experience is what will determine the course of future endeavors, and so each event compounds the next, and the cycle goes on and on, creating routine and behavior.
The key word here is behavior.
Behavioral psychology – a school of psychology that explains all mental and physical activity in terms of response by glands and muscles to external factors (stimuli) – maintains that behavior is both conditioned and determined by its own outcomes or consequences (rewards and punishments) . *
*According to my initial research, mind you. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
This ties back to that dangerous notion of binary thinking that haunts most folk who suffer from bipolar disorder: if you do good things, good things will happen, and if you do bad things, bad things will happen.
In a perfect world, bad behavior is condemned and good behavior is rewarded.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.
With that being said, there are many questions to be asked, most without definitive answers. Life and all of its intricacies are impossible to distill into such simple concepts when it comes to how we act upon our desires vs our environment; there are way too many factors, scientifically speaking, countless variables and influences to take into account, so in that maelstrom of cosmic and karmic turmoil we find ourselves right smack in the middle of that ageless argument:
What is right? What is wrong?
And so that brings me back to that well-intentioned, yet tragically misguided meme.
In the world of mental illness, the population can be basically boiled down to two groups: the afflicted and the non-afflicted.*
*I am currently wrestling with the thought of minimizing and dichotimizing such a concept, but bear with me for now.
*Yep, I went there. Cue rimshot.
Those afflicted by mental illness tend to see the world in a constant state of confusion because our behavior, as erratic as it may be, usually does not stem from malice; it originates from not being able to comprehend the world in an orderly fashion, so we grab on to dear life to whatever person or behavior justifies not feeling like an utter empty waste of space, a cross-like burden that taints that Rockwellian image we have of what the world should be. That image is distorted, blurry, and quite alluring, like a nice little acid trip; it also leads to toxic behavior, just like any other drug.
However, if you do not conform to how we see the world, you are exiled from our kingdom of joy, you are no longer welcome into our sanctuary of blissful misbehavior, and you are banished, labeled a threat to our feelings of validation and acceptance.
That’s where the toxicity kicks in, and why the lines and conditions of what is acceptable and tolerable behavior need to be established to preserve and protect everyone’s mental and emotional health and safety.
Who wants to be a buzzkill, right? Nobody wants to be a party-pooper.
Except that party that you’re having so much fun with?
It’s a one man wrecking crew, slamming into others with impunity and blind disregard.
No one wants to be standing in the middle of the train tracks when the choo-choo is barreling down at full speed….
How do we avoid a disastrous collision? If the imminent disaster occurs, how do we manage damage control? How do we minimize collateral damage?
Tune in to next week’s action-filled episode to find out!