Life in Writing
"Forgiveness is divine," is an oft repeated slogan, mostly in fortune cookies, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. The wisdom in that statement is self-evident. Although he meant it as a joke, Michelangelo actually adds a fairly wise addendum onto the end of this age-old phrase. Never pay full price for late pizza. You can forgive the delivery man, by trying to understand his reasons for being late, and not holding a grudge, but the pizza company made a promise to deliver the pizza on time and didn't do it. There's a difference between forgiving faults and just allowing bad behavior. If you don't take the time to make the distinction then you'll be one of the poor fools who pays full price, and still doesn't get pizza delivered on time.
This advice isn't universally applicable. There are certainly times when you want to know what odds you're up against, but when we also run into times in our lives when certain things just have to be done, no matter what the odds against us are. When you become a parent, or get diagnosed with cancer, sometimes it's best to be like Han Solo and just ignore the odds. Push through and do whatever you need to do. Don't let statistics weigh you down when you need to succeed.
There's a lot to be said for tenacity. There's also a lot to be said for realism. You shouldn't start up on something you know you can't do, but if you've assessed your goals and decided that you can achieve them, that's when this advice kicks in. Don't turn back once you've started toward your goals. Things can come up that make it harder, you may have to figure out new methods of attaining your goals, but you can never give up, and you can never surrender. Stick to your goals until you achieve them.
And with this week being thanksgiving, when you take a look at the turkey dinner in front of you, and think you can't possibly eat that much, remember to never give up, and never surrender.
You often hear, even sometimes on this blog, about the shades of gray involved in morality. That fuzzy area between right and wrong, where things get mixed up. Choices that you would normally say are good are suddenly bad. But it's important to note that those shades of gray are the exception in our decision making. For about nine out of every ten decisions we make, the right answer is pretty clear-cut. We have a tendency as humans to start thinking that we are the exception to the rule in every situation we come across.
The fact of the matter is that most of the time we claim ourselves as the exception when we simply aren't. We rationalize our wrong-doing, telling ourselves that we're not bad people, we're just one of the few people who are in the right by doing something generally considered to be morally reprehensible. It's important to note that such situations do exist. There's a time to lie, a time to steal, and even a time to kill. But if we're really honest with ourselves, most of us have never been in a situation where those things were actually the right things to do. We've just convinced ourselves that they were. The fact is that most of the time, things are the way that Super Man sees them, and once we remove our own rationalizations from the equations, the distinction between right and wrong really isn't hard to make.
Isn't it funny, how some of the very wisest words come from shows intended for children? In this case Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Air Bender really drops some impressive wisdom on us. All of us have a tendency when we feel ashamed to think that doing something to be proud of is the cure. It's normal to think such a thing, but pursuing anything just as a means to no-longer feel ashamed is a sure-fire way to make ourselves feel worse. Because just as Iroh says, pride is the source of shame. The truth is that the only cure for shame is humility. Admit your mistakes and seek to make them right. Only then can you find yourself free from both pride and shame and find real happiness.
There are a lot of opportunities to sell out in this life. You can cheat on your test to pass a class, or lie in a job interview to get hired. You may not always have a chance to become a king, but a lot of times you'll have a chance at success if you just do something a little less than moral. Sometimes you'll even get away with things, at least for while. But it's impossible to be happy and know that you aren't good. You'll never be proud of passing a class knowing that you cheated to do it, and you'll never truly be proud of your new job knowing that you lied to get it, and you'll never be happy as a king knowing that you aren't a good man. Cheating your way to success can be a real temptation, but remember that it will never bring you happiness.
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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