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Rationalizing Our Way Out of Balance

Rationality is one of the greatest aspects of humanity, but our ability to form cogent arguments to support or discourage behavior can get us in trouble. You can "prove" anything if you're clever, as they say. 

It's human nature. You can see it in young children, "Johnny, who ate the cookies?"  With crumbs still all over his face, Johnny points at his brother and states that since his brother ate a cookie he ate one as well.

Did Johnny have the right to eat a cookie because his brother ate one?

This rationale, unfortunately, stays with many of us. People do this throughout their lives.  They see a coworker take a two-hour lunch every day and leave 30 minutes early and come to the conclusion that they have the right to do the same thing.

Or they decide that faking a sick day once in awhile isn't a big deal because Bob steals toilet paper from the company and gets away with it. At least they're not doing that.
It's important for us to consider how often we're doing this. None of these behaviors are major. We're not committing serious crimes, after all, right?

But it's easy to keep rationalizing like this for exactly that reason. We make excuses for a lot of bad or self-destructive behavior, even when we're letting someone down. What we need to realize is we're ultimately letting ourselves down.

Biblically, Samson rationalized that he had the right to kill 30 Philistines because he'd been betrayed over a riddle. It was easier to take it out on others than to confront his own sins.

Adam and Eve rationalize that they had the right to eat fruit from any tree they wanted. What happened immediately after they ate the apple? They blamed their actions on the snake!

Rationalizing relates directly to the major emotions discussed in other posts. It's at the core of our blaming others for our choices. Of not taking responsibility. If we're not careful, we can rationalize away our faith, our values, or morals when the going gets tough.

Life Lesson:  Ask yourself who you are really trying to please.  If we're honest, the answer is usually ourselves. That's an important realization to fully internalize. We're the furthest from putting our best selves forward when we're acting only for self-interest. Balancing our faith with ethical yet fruitful work requires putting self in perspective.


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