There is an adorable video making the rounds on social media of a little African-American girl who has been discovered by her mother with crumbled pretzels in her hair. After a lengthy discourse aimed at talking her way out of punishment, the kindergartener finally admits to her mother the reason she did the deed. She wanted her father to scratch the pretzels out of her hair the way he scratches the “dandra” (translation dandruff) out of her sibling’s hair. Following the confession, the patient mother asks the child why she thinks she should escape punishment. “That was all for a reason,” the obviously intelligent child responds. In her juvenile way of thinking, although she knew putting pretzels in her hair was wrong, the act was justifiable because she had a perfectly good reason – she wanted more attention from her father.
The good book itself advises that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and anyone with experience around children can attest to this fact. Little humans will go to great lengths to explain away their unacceptable behavior. This type of logic is expected from a child and is actually considered by many to be “cute”. However, there is nothing cute about children who have grown into adults who continue to justify wrongdoing – theirs and others – to suit their own purposes.
Let’s look at our neighbor to the north as an example. Led by a man who seems hell bent on flipping the proverbial bird at the world and denigrating anyone who doesn’t resemble him, many Trump supporters will go to the ends of the earth to justify his bad behavior. This is a man who disrespected Queen Elizabeth during a recent visit and has been publicly rude to other world leaders; has been caught on tape making crude remarks about women and is accused of sexual misconduct towards many; admires dictators and aspires to be like them; promotes hatred and bigotry every opportunity he gets; has been caught in multiple mistruths; and has mocked the disabled. But you know what? In the minds of his supporters, he is putting their interests first in his effort to “make America great again”. So no matter what wrong he has done or continues to do, it’s all good as far as they are concerned.
Truth be told, we don’t have to look across the pond for examples of this type of behavior. Bahamians have become experts at justifying wrong, whether it is the wrongdoings of their favorite political party, politician, pastor, child, or their own missteps. How many times have we heard the cries of “not my good son” coming from the mother of a young man doing the Bank Lane shuffle after committing some dastardly deed. These same mothers sit quietly by as their children wreak havoc on society, and are all too comfortable benefiting from the proceeds of that havoc. And what about members of the church congregation who are well aware of the egregious acts being committed by their spiritual leader, yet are content to show up faithfully each Sunday morning in full support of their ‘shepherd’. Let’s not forget the party faithful who demonize the opposing party for their policies then turn around and praise the party they support for doing the same thing or worse when they get into office. Examples of justifying wrong are all around us.
Most recently during the trial of former College of The Bahamas employee Chimeka Gibbs who was accused of stealing over half a million dollars from the institution over a seven-year period, a senior probation officer recommended that she be given a non-custodial sentence. The officer told Justice Cheryl Grant-Bethel that it wouldn’t be in Gibbs’ “best interest” for her to serve a prison term for her actions. Really? Was it in the University’s best interest that she pocketed this money for her own benefit, without an inkling of remorse for her actions? How did her behavior benefit taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars fund the institution? During the trial, her lawyer argued that his client was effectively “thrown under the bus” and made to take the fall for the misappropriated funds, which he asserted was the end result of the “sloppy” and inefficient manner the country’s funds were being managed. Of course, it was his job to defend her, no matter how indefensible she may have been. However, the average Joe Blow is not being paid to account for our national proclivity to excusing away bad behavior. For the record, Justice Grant-Thompson did not buy the argument, and sentenced the 40-year-old to nine years for 16 counts of falsification of accounts and 15 years for eight counts of stealing by reason of employment.
“Justification is the enabler of cowardice. People are capable of abominable acts as long as they can justify it to themselves.” ~ Chris Brady
There was a time when one could rely on a person’s guilty conscience to steer them in the right direction. In today’s world, however, it seems the conscience is becoming obsolete. However, just because you don’t feel guilty doesn’t mean that what you are doing is okay. Doing the right thing begins with making the right decision. As aptly put by addiction specialist David Roppo, “if you have to rationalize, justify, quantify, clarify and simplify your actions, are you really making the right decision? Doing the right thing doesn’t require transitive verbiage”.
Doing what is right as opposed to justifying wrong is the responsibility of us all. From the age of understanding, children should be taught that while they are free to choose, they are not free from the consequences of their choices. Leaders should be made to account for their actions, not just be given a slap on the wrist and a free pass to do it all over again in a few months’ time after the public would have forgotten about their faux pas. We should all assign ourselves the difficult task of taking an honest look at the reflection in the mirror. We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Good people sometimes make bad decisions. At no time though, should be we satisfied with justifying those decisions for the sake of our own comfort.