Added On: Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dont justify bad deeds

There's a psychological trap which pretty much everyone is in danger of falling into at some time or another. It's a mind-trick we use on ourselves to justify deeds we're not proud of. We simply compare ourselves to others who've done something worse.

I've done this many times myself to justify in my mind acts that I know were wrong, and I'm sure if you're honest, you can think of examples too.

It works like this: You admit to yourself and others that you've committed an error, but belittle it by comparing it to greater errors committed by others. For example, an alcoholic who drinks a bottle of whisky every day says to himself: "Well, at least I don't drink two bottles a day like Henry next door."

The wonderful thing about this trick is that it can be used to justify virtually any act, no matter how immoral. No matter what you've done, you never have to look far to find someone who's done something worse.

Have you become lazy lately? Well, at least you're not as bad as that slothful uncle of yours.

Are you violent? It's nothing compared to those families living down on the housing estate.

Do you take drugs? At least you're not one of those junkies sleeping in bus shelters.

Using this method, you never have to face up to doing anything wrong. It's extremely comforting. The only problem is, you still have to eventually face up to the consequences of your actions.

Lazy people still end up with fewer rewards, regardless of their uncles. Violent people still get arrested, no matter how nasty those on the housing estate are. Drug users still wreck their health, even if someone else wrecks theirs worse.

This mental trick is the equivalent of sweeping dust under the carpet. The dust is still there, even if it's hidden from view.

Some of the most dishonest users of this trick are politicians. They can justify almost any evil act simply by comparing their choices to those of their peers in other nations. They use it to legitimize war, torture and all sorts of other wrongs. All they have to say is "Well, what I'm planning is nothing compared to what politician X in country Y gets up to".

Morality and good deeds aren't measured by comparing yourself to others. It's something that comes from within. Most people know when they're committing bad deeds, and are perfectly aware of the consequences. Trying to hide behind someone else's badness is often as immoral as the original act itself.

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