One of my favorite episodes of “30 Rock” has Liz Lemon going to her high school reunion. At first, she doesn’t want to go because she was the nerdy kid no one liked. But after a pep talk from Jack, basically telling her she can now rub her former classmates’ noses in her success, she attends–only to discover that she wasn’t the alienated nerd but the school bully.
I’d like to think that such a thing could only happen in a sitcom, but somehow I doubt it. We all know philosophically we’re capable of doing and saying bad and mean things. Yet when it comes down to it, we usually see ourselves as good people. So how do we handle the cognitive dissonance these two opposing ideas create?
Unfortunately, usually, by absolving ourselves and blaming others. It goes something like this:
I just did (said) something mean to someone.
But I’m a good person who doesn’t do (say) mean things.
How could this have happened?
The person must have pushed me into being this mean. It’s his fault!!!
A friend of mine was once complaining to her boyfriend about her awful part-time job. Now he was an easygoing guy. (In fact, he let me call him by the wrong name for about a year before correcting me!) But this time he responded, “Sarah, I’ve been with you for about three years now, and you’ve hated every boss you’ve had. I think you need to look at the common denominator here.” To her credit, she did. She often told the story as an example of how her view changed at that moment. But I’m guessing she’s among the minority.
So next time, you’re mad at someone and about to do something rash, take a moment to explore the possibility (only a possibility) that you just might be the bad guy in this scenario.
Because, as Liz Lemon found out, you don’t want this moment of self-discovery at your high school reunion!