Thought of the Day

Monday, March 14, 2011
It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you.

This is kind of a corollary to the "when people show you who they are, believe them" idea. The difference is that it's most useful when you're engaging in self-examination rather than attempting to make reasonable judgments about other people. 

I find that examining my own behavior is a never ending process, mostly because there are never ending opportunities for improvement. And because I have a tendency toward rationalization, I also find that I must be absolutely brutal in my self-analysis, otherwise I convince myself that my bad behavior isn't really indicative of what kind of person I am. It's an aberration. Really.

Which is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.

Intention used to mean a lot to me. What someone intended to happen carried a lot of weight with me, even if the outcome was horrific. But the older I've gotten, the more I've come to believe that while intention does matter, it's the action that defines who I am.

So while my actions clearly demonstrate that I'm mildly socially retarded, and prone to petty snottiness, and I'm self-indulgent about my diet, I hope they also demonstrate that the truth matters to me, and I care about other people, and I live a life of service.

When choosing a course of action, I need to more often ask myself, "What does this action say about me?  Does it define me as the kind of person I aspire to be, or does it degrade me?"

This whole "being a grown-up" and "living an examined life" stuff blows.

5 comments:

vince said...

As Socrates said "An unexamined life is not worth living." And you know what they say about good intentions.

I absolutely agree that what you do tells me a lot about who you are. Anyone can mouth platitudes - what do your actions say you believe at the core of your being?

I'd add a corollary to your emphasis on leading an examined life. It's important that you examine what your actions are and how they match what you believe, but be careful not to let it slip into beating yourself up, or obsessing about mistakes you've made.

Why yes, I have a tendency to do both.

For the record, your actions and your willingness to examine what you do and why you do is one of the things I really admire about you.

Womanji said...

Janiece,

Ditto to all you and Vince said.

Anne C. said...

"For the record, your actions and your willingness to examine what you do and why you do is one of the things I really admire about you."

What Vince said goes for me too.

Interestingly, I have a talent for rationalization (need one, I can provide it) but because I know it's rationalization, I rarely let myself get away with it and can therefore be pretty brutal with myself. With others, I am always aware of the fact that I am not in possession of all the information and that tempers my judgment -- not so with my own behavior.

So coming from a position of understanding, I echo Vince's admonition to not slip into obsessing or beating yourself up. I haven't heard you be excessively critical of yourself (generally you give the sense of recognizing your process and an intention to do better) but self-criticism can be at its worst when it's an internal dialogue only. So keep that in mind!

wtm2015 said...

Good thoughts here.

Yes, being an adult, examining your life, etc., all blows. However if you don't do that you'll never progress.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite commentaries (or corollaries, or whatever you call it). People love to say "With age comes wisdom." Not always-sometimes the only thing that comes with age is getting old.

Janiece said...

Welcome, wtm2015.

I complain about the work, but you're right - I'll never stop doing it, because the alternative blows more.