“Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it’s a crime.” — Paul McCartney
Some things in life seem counterintuitive. The headline above provides one of those dilemmas that seems like a semantical argument, but really it’s not. It’s one of those things that we know intuitively, but it took my wife to put it in phrasing that made sense. Some people are so worried about doing the correct thing that they don’t do the right thing.
It takes a wise person to know the difference and I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know the difference for most of my life. Even in the moment, it can be difficult to tell the difference. However, this seemed like a good jumping off point from my last piece on Saturday. It created some interesting conversations online and offline as it turned out.
For those that don’t want to continue to read the column below I have attached it here. The debate there was whether journalists are required to give every viewpoint equal consideration. It was a debate over what it means to be fair. Most of us were taught at a very young age that fair does not necessarily mean the same. Fair means everyone gets what they deserve. It is a distinction with a very clear difference.
There is also a distinction between right and correct. There is a distinction with a very clear difference. The problem with moral authority is that it is often predicated on what is correct. There is a very clear right and wrong and if you stand on the side of right then you are always correct. The problem is that you are sometimes wrong.
Understanding that paradox is the key to wisdom and happiness. Thus, we get the debate over what to do when the other side lies, cheats, steals, and bullies to get their way. It is tempting to respond in kind. There is a delicate balance between being a doormat and just being a different version of a bully. The space between those two can be wide or narrow, but the space between is the space between being able to stand on moral authority and just being another asshole.
Finding that space is hard. Finding that space is the key to moving forward. Machiavelli told us that the ends justify the means. The problem is that it is easy to confuse the two. For some, the means become an end to themselves. It brings a perverted joy to inflict pain on others. It brings a perverted joy to win no matter how hollow the victory might be. Fight like them and you become them. Sure, the results may look different, but what does it profit someone to win if they lose their soul?
Again, being a doormat isn’t the answer. This is a tough and difficult road. It means constantly checking ourselves and looking in the mirror to see if we remain someone we can love and be proud of. We can’t let the monsters win, but we also can’t allow ourselves to become a monster to win. If that happens then what have we really won?