Justified – How It Starts
How did we get here? In the middle of an argument or at the tail-end of one, both parties wounded in some way, counting the tallied victories or points scored. That’s the way of it, isn’t it? We say what we say, do what we do and then decide later whether or not it was justified. A society of speak/act first, think later.
And we are the pinnacle of that society.
It always starts with something small. A spark, if you will. Be it a comment, an action, an inaction…it doesn’t really matter what. That spark lands on the wood that makes up our life and suddenly there’s the potential for that flame. Instead of putting it out, we lash back, adding another spark and another and another until suddenly we have a fire. Not just any old fire like you’d get in the garden firepit, but a roaring one that’s almost out of control. As the flames rage, so do tempers and we lash back with venom and bile, letting the fires jump from branch to branch just like a forest fire.
We felt justified though, didn’t we? When we tossed that first spark…weren’t we right? After all, they were wrong. Whatever they had said, whatever they had done, they were wrong.
It gives us that feeling of exoneration…but that feeling is short-lived as it turns to ash along with everything else.
Just How Justified Are We?
If I had to pick a favourite quote from a TV programme or a film, the title would definitely go to a particular quote from Doctor Who. Say what you will about the casting and/or performance of Peter Capaldi, I’m sure we can all agree that this little monologue of his was one of the most memorable moments in the series:
“Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.” – the Doctor, from The Zygon Inversion, series 9 episode 8.
So come on. How justified are we really? And I include myself in that, because I know I get things wrong. How right are we?
Perhaps will never know. But even so, there’s something we need to think about first.
Behind the Scenes
The one thing we forget when we are quick to bite back is what’s going on behind the scenes. What is the other person or people involved dealing with? Not just the “here and now”, but beyond that. How is their home life? Their job? Their finances? Now go deeper. What about their emotional and mental well-being? If you believe in such things, what about their spiritual well-being? Are they actually coping with life? Their response could be due to any one of these factors. Also, their initial comments or responses could have been caused by anything.
The harsh truth is no matter how justified you feel in your response, how concretely right you feel, you have absolutely no idea what triggered their response in the first place, nor what they are dealing with. Life throws plenty of stresses at us and that can create all sorts of responses that we wouldn’t normally give. While that doesn’t excuse it, it’s certainly something to bear in mind.
But let’s go deeper still.
What if your seemingly justified comment/argument/curse/temper-snap causes some harm? Those of you familiar with how mental health works will doubtlessly know that some situations and scenarios can lead people down dark paths. For anxiety, depression and BPD, self-harm can be a release for the pent-up emotions that threaten to overwhelm us. While we are ultimately responsible for self-harming because we are the ones who pick up the blade, who is to say that someone’s abrupt or rude comment can’t push us down that path?
Behind the scenes, there may be a mountain that they’re struggling with, something that your “just action” (and that’s not to say it isn’t justified, for it might be) pushes them towards. Who knows what kind of conflagration the spark of your actions will cause?
Getting On With Life
We don’t know what other people are struggling with. Ultimately, no matter how justified we think we are, we need to stop. Think. Assess. Is it actually worth the hurt, pain and potential suffering that it will cause? Perhaps it is better to wait for things to calm down before we say our piece. That’s not to say that anger or arguments cannot be justified – there are plenty of examples of this – but there is a time and a place for it.
My words can only go so far. For a better meaning behind this post, I’d ask you to check out this song by Philippa Hanna. It speaks volumes to me and summarises what I’m trying to say beautifully. Why not take a listen, because you might find it speaks to you.
“Cos we’re all just getting on with living Going into battles nobody sees us fight Yeah, we’re all just getting on with living So try to be forgiving when we don’t see eye to eye We’re all just getting on with life.” – Philippa Hanna, Getting On With Life
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