Stigma (1,152)

May 20th, 2011

I enjoy having dinner in a small restaurant—finding that little out-of-the way place that makes you feel like you’re having a meal in a box car on a train. It happened recently. I ended up sitting next to a couple whose proximity prevented much privacy for either of us. I tried to tune out their conversation, but when I overheard they were from Connecticut and I knew I would be heading that way soon, I gave in to my eavesdropping instincts and listened in.

The wife was explaining to the husband why their bathtub in the motel room had been filling with water that morning. He didn’t seem terribly interested, demonstrated by his lack of reaction to her overtures. But it didn’t stop her from continuing. Apparently, it really bothered her that the bathtub had been filling up with water during showers, and she wanted him to know clearly that she had discovered it was because the drain had apparently been closed off—without her knowledge.

The young daughter who had been sitting with them at the table excused herself at this point and went to the bathroom. While the girl was gone, the wife pointed out to her husband that she believed the daughter had left the drain closed, which had caused the problem in the first place. I must continue to remind you that the husband was expressing no interest whatsoever in the story-telling, apparently completely engrossed in his plate of spaghetti.

The wife continued, mused, considered, wondered and speculated on how the drain had become so closed off—making it clear all the time that she was unaware of the situation and not responsible for the conclusion. She spoke well past any comfortable level of either interest or importance.

I had to smile. For there is such a stigma in our society against personal responsibility that each one of us feels a strong need to justify our actions, even when the profile has proven itself to be useless or even devastating. After all, nothing exactly is our fault. And especially when there are people around us of weaker character who can easily be blamed for the situation, why would we ever pass up the opportunity to target them as the culprit?

It goes back to the support we receive in society for our great need to cover up. For religion tells us that we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness and mercy. Isn’t that just another way of saying “it’s really not my fault?”

Politics provide us with a scapegoat—always blaming someone else for the ramifications of our actions. Once again, “I may have been a little wrong, but more the victim.”

Corporations love to present commercials portraying that we’re all just humans and equally flawed, so how could we possibly blame ourselves for being inadequate?

And finally, psychology gives us a great escape by informing us that our DNA, upbringing and circumstances may be the cause for all our fallacies and weaknesses. Not only is it possible that “the devil made me do it,” but maybe “it was all caused by my mother and father.” Let’s be honest. It’s easier to sell cars and hamburgers to stupid people. So if you can keep people dumb, you can keep them buying.

As a result, very few people actually make the human journey towards transparency, gaining the freedom from incrimination and receiving the greater mercy because we’ve confessed our own faults one to another.

Yes, that’s what the Bible says in James: “Confess your faults one to another that you may be healed.”

Isn’t it interesting that he equates a lack of openness with the diseases that often haunt us? Do I get sick because I’m a liar? I think so. That’s a good enough reason right there to begin to tell the truth. And you will find that if you are the first one to reveal your lack that you will have more allies than condemners.

Back to my story. At length, the husband interrupted the wife as the daughter returned from the bathroom and said, “Would it be all right if I change the subject to discuss my meat balls? They’re really quite good.”

I chuckled to myself. We must be prepared that when we become overly zealous to hide our frailties, even the discussion of the texture and taste of meatballs may be preferable to our companions.

Remove the stigma. Be the first one in your neighborhood to admit that your grass is too high and needs to be mowed but you’re just too lazy to do it today. You will be surprised at how many people will sympathize with you—and how many new friends you will make.

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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