Flaws, Faults, and How We Define Them

If you’re looking for flaws, look inside yourself. Look at your own behaviors, behaviors for which you would condemn others were they to engage in them. If you judge other people for failing to meet standards and expectations you are incapable of meeting, the hypocrisy of your double standard will speak volumes about your character. Be firm with yourself for all those many flaws and take steps to attempt to correct them. But don’t be too hard on yourself; you probably are your own worst critic; you probably recognize those faults and already flog yourself for them. Understand that flaws comprise more than a fraction of each of us. Humans are no more perfect than any other creature, though the genesis of their flaws may be far more complex.

That having been said, I think it’s reasonable to assert that some flaws, some behaviors, are inexcusable. No pardon can erase the behaviors arising from them nor in many cases their effect. Some actions cannot be excused. Murder, for example, or rape. But what about actions that could lead to the inexcusable? A failed attempt at murder. A foiled sexual assault. What of those and a thousand other points along the continuum from accepted and appreciated to unacceptable and forbidden? Where do we as society draw lines? And how? More importantly, where do we as individuals draw our own lines? And, are they solid lines that reveal absolute limits, or do they creep back and forth along a shifting boundary?

The incivility of the political discourse since June 2015, and even before, suggests to me that this, and most, conversations fall on deaf ears. Instead, we throw barbs back and forth. I certainly have. Decency is a moving target. The definition of decency is flawed today. But so is the dictionary that allows it to be defined in ways harmful to social cohesiveness. We’re responsible for writing the dictionary, aren’t we?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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