I'll fill you in on my impressions of an event most of you didn't go to (and many of you don't care about) this evening.
I've been reading a book I picked up in the grocery store (I do such things for kicks sometimes), called What Your Childhood Memories Say About You, by Kevin Leman - it's a bit facile, and terribly keen on the G word, but amusing and somewhat insightful in a superficially helpful way. According to it, I am actually a mix of all the birth orders, making me a neurotic mess.
I'm kidding (sort of; you know me). I, like most of us, emcompass many of the traits of each birth order, because it's never quite so simple as when you were born in your family. The birth order traits section is interesting, and fun like those memes that do the "what does your choice of *blank* say about you?" thing, and it's always amusing picking out the various quirks of one's nature and seeing what fits and what doesn't. This section is the easy bit.
The more interesting point of the book (and the part where it actually approaches its greatest usefulness) is that we lie to ourselves all the time about what kind of person we are. In my New Year's post, I spoke about this - the image in your head doesn't always match how others see you, and your spoken intentions may not match your actions towards those intentions. The book says that you can change - if you are willing to work at becoming self-aware.
I've spent the better part of twenty years now trying to become more self-aware, and let me tell you, it isn't exactly a cakewalk. It's not a question of "oh, I need to do this", it's a long process of analysis, and truth-telling, even when the lie is more comfortable. And the biggest part of the lie is knowing where to assign blame.
It's easy and comfortable to either fall into continual self-blame ("I never do anything right!") or other-blame ("The world hates me!"), possibly especially for Americans (maybe, kinda, a little). I love you guys, and believe me, you are anything but shallow, but you (the general you) have a teeny tendency to want to see things in either-or/black-white terms. As a nation, you seem terribly uncomfortable with grey areas, and the idea that the world is nothing but shades of grey seems to be rather upsetting.
Now, I'm not saying you're all like that; that would be stupid. But it does colour the way we (I'll include myself in this) all think, and it's much easier to see things in absolutes (especially right/wrong absolutes) than having to work through thousands of permutations to get to the right conclusion.
I'm getting somewhere with this other than insulting my adopted nation, I promise.
In the SCA, this either-or thinking is exacerbated by our acceptance of many marginally socialized people with some counter-productive personality traits. In our mad drive to "never hurt anyone's feelings!", we never allow our other-blaming members to come face to face with the consequences of their thinking. Our self-blamers get all the fodder they need to keep thinking themselves into a mad spiral, because we never stop our assholes in their tracks and say "stop blaming the people around your for your lack of success!", but we do more damage than just allowing people to continue in their abnegation of reponsibility for their progress; we actually enable it, by giving in to their demands for success without any personal effort.
The flip side of this is the people who blame themselves when they have no reason to do so - part of accepting blame is knowing who really is to blame, and absolving yourself of blame when it is warranted. Unfortunately, the only people that seem to do this are the people who really should be accepting the blame - the "I'm sorry you got offended" crowd, the "I'm just being honest!" crowd, and the "You should have told me, so it's your fault this didn't happen!" crowd - to name but a few. If you always take the blame onto yourself, it might be good to repeat to yourself that even though someone is blaming you, it doesn't mean you're to blame. The other party might just be an asshole.
Think of this - how many people do you know who constantly say and/or act like they so totally deserve that award they want, but do absolutely nothing to ever warrant elevation? How many people do you know who, when they fuck up (and they will), blame everyone around them, but never themselves? Heck, for the non-SCA people, how many people do you know who continually make the same mistakes, over and over again, yet never seem to realize that they're the cause of their problems?
As the Despair.com poster says: "Dysfunction: The only consistent feature of all your dissatisfying relationships is you."
The really bad thing about this is that the other-blamers can get massively poisonous in their efforts to maintain their self-lies; they'll hurt, slander, and destroy the people who quibble with their self-assessment, and do everything in their power to drive out the people who won't kow-tow to their vision of themselves. They surround themselves with people who will agree with anything they say, and they turn those people against their "enemies" (i.e., the people who see them for what they really are). They cause a great deal of strife and anguish, because most people will go along with them for the sake of "not hurting anyone's feelings!", and the dissenting members of the group will be ostracized and demonized - all for the sake of maintaining a lie.
Eventually, they drive everyone away, because they cannot maintain the lie, but in the meantime, they've caused a huge amount of damage. Being aware of the damage these people can cause, and refusing to take false responsibility for their attacks is hard, but it allows for a certain measure of the peace that comes with knowing that no matter what that person says, you are not at fault for what happens.
I've watched people implode their SCA careers through being absolutely blind to the havoc they cause with their other-blame and self lies. I've had people come whining to me that they don't understand why they're not getting what they want, or why people are mad at them, and they had no idea that they were the root cause of all their problems. I've dealt with the fallout from any number of these explosions, as they hurt my friends and acquaintances. My own journey towards my personal truth has allowed me to see these people for what they are, but even my best efforts at helping them towards real success and away from their negative behaviour sometimes fails in the face of their self-lies.
(...and I have to constantly consider whether I have the right or the authority to speak out, which is why I do so very seldom, and only in the face of direct demand. I'm not in the business of walking up to random people and pwning them for other people's satistfaction.)
I'll keep trying; the cost to the SCA as well as the more personal cost to my friends is too great for me to give up. But I wonder sometimes what service we think we are doing to the rest of the SCA to allow other-blamers to continue to wreak their personal brand of havoc on everyone around them. I wonder why we keep behaving like the needs of the loud one outweigh the needs of the quiet many.
(... and sometimes we don't; I've seen instances where the advice of peers has been strong enough to help the sitting Royalty make decisions about people that are not obviously other-blamers, but could cause great harm if elevated to a particular level.)
Everyone tells themselves little lies - it's how we get through rough patches. But the essential truth of every situation needs to be acknowledged if we are to reach our goals and improve personally and as a Society. It's okay to be a screw-up - we're all screw-ups in one way or another, and no-one's perfect. It's really, really okay...
...as long as we learn from our mistakes - or at the very least, learn not to trust assholes who will throw us under the bus rather than admit they screwed up.