2011-02-13

Why Do We Err?

People make bad choices every day. And despite how much I blog about economics, no I am not talking about "irrational exuberance" in this case.

A close neighbor of mine seems to have all the appearances of a drug dealer. I can't prove it, of course, but I can say this much with absolute certainty: the aromas wafting from their door testify to the fact that they are heavy users, if not dealers. I only realized that they were dealers recently, upon a bit of introspection on the matter.

Let's be absolutely clear on one thing: people who do drugs, and people who sell drugs, aren't fooling anyone else. We all see them, we all know who they are, we all know what they're doing. In regard to all of this, we're nobody's fool. The fooling begins after the fact. The dealers and users fool themselves into believing that no one else knows what they're doing. We, the neighbors, fool ourselves into thinking it's no big deal, or that it's not taking a toll on the neighborhood, or that kids will be kids, or etc.

Why do we do it? We do it because we don't want to live next to drug dealers. They do it because they don't want to confront the shame they would feel if their neighbors looked into their eyes and said, "You guys are f--king drug addicts!" You, the reader, do it because you may have done some drugs yourself and you don't want to fess up to the fact that there's something really awful about drugs that if you admitted, then you'd have to confront that part of yourself, too.

An acquaintance of mine has been romantically involved with a man who doesn't love her for years. Every so often, he takes her out on the town, shows her a good time, gives her flowers, says some nice things about her, and she forgets all about the fact that he doesn't love her. She doesn't want to think about it, because it's a buzzkill. She wants to be pampered and sought-after and desired and so she shuts the love thing out of her mind long enough to enjoy a little meaningless make-believe. She doesn't want to face the part of her that wants to be genuinely loved so badly that it makes her terrified of being alone.

Why do we do it? Why do we lie to ourselves? Why would we rather lie to ourselves than confront and acknowledge our weaknesses and move on toward a more productive approach to whatever aspect of our lives we happen to be talking about?

Look, I'm not going to debate how destructive and wrong drugs are. I don't care how many great people you know who have done them. Deep down, everyone knows what I am unafraid of saying: drugs are terrible. And you know it.

Likewise, a lover who flatters you with everything but love is a John. You know it, I know it, he knows it.

Why do we lie? Why do we pretend?

We do it because we're scared. We're scared of what it might mean if we acknowledge the error of our own actions.

Look, I'm no saint. I've gotten a lot of things wrong over the years. But why be afraid of admitting it? I am guilty of every wrong thing I have ever done. I will not fear my mistakes. Instead, I will mend them and try to be a better person in the future. But fear? That's not my gig.

I have said before that fear is the single most destructive force on the planet. I feel that from the bottom of my heart. Fear can chew up absolutely anything. The noblest, purest, most wonderful thing in the world is powerless in the face of fear. It is an incurable disease that can undo - and has undone - every good thing anyone can think of.

Push fear out of your heart and mind as soon as it appears or rue the day you made it your master. Whatever you do, keep clear of fear's event horizon. Muster up your best courage and let life have its way with you. You might screw up, and you probably will. Heaven knows, I have. But don't be scared. However bad it gets, it is always worse with fear.