Maybe I really am crazy. Maybe I really am out of my mind. Maybe I really am insane. Maybe I’m living a life of complete and utter madness. (Afterall, I’ve openly admitted that I struggle with Depression and High-Functioning Anxiety.) And why do I think this? Because I think, in my opinion, I’m not a bad person. And actually, I think I’m a pretty damn good person — now.
I am the first to admit that, years ago, I was a pretty fucking awful person. I don’t ever pretend that I was a “good” person while I was doing the worst things of my life — heavy drinking, drugs, and cheating on my wife. But today, on this very day, at this very moment, I do none of those things. So, I guess the question is, why am I still a bad person in the eyes of many people I know (or knew) as well as many people I’ve never met (or never will meet)?
Is it because of what I did?
Is it because of who I was?
Imagine, for a moment, that the worst thing you’ve ever done in your entire life — that thing that no one (or almost no one) knows about — imagine what would happen if that one little secret got out. Would people never see you the same? It may not be illegal or hurtful, but it would still change the way people view you, treat you, and think of you. Everyone has that one thing (and anyone who says any differently is either lying, in denial, or both).
Porn addiction? Drug abuse? An affair (or near-affair)? Abuse? Betrayal? …or worse?
Even if these things are distant memories — years ago — it’s still your secret.
So imagine that this particular secret is now the paramount fact people relate to your face, your name, and your life. How many people would no longer associate with you? How many people would be humble enough to accept you, regardless of your past choices? And how many people would see themselves as better than you because their deepest darkest secret is still a secret?
Welcome to my world.
What if people’s opinions of one another were based solely on who they are, rather than who they were? Yes, I know, that sentiment seems like pure madness.
I mean, let’s be honest and serious here: Who would we be, as people, if we couldn’t judge others as being inferior to ourselves? That’s what we do. That’s what people do. We love watching people’s lives go down in flames; like watching a NASCAR wreck — you just can’t look away. There’s something primitively satisfying about watching someone’s life crumble because, honestly, it’s not your life. So as we see someone’s life shatter, judging and ridiculing their errant and/or destructive choices, it gives us a primitive sense of pleasure to view someone else’s failures as our own successes, simply because you’re not them.
But, here’s my question: Why do we continue to do this after a person has admitted they were wrong?
I can understand hating someone’s very existence after they did something terrible, then insisted they either didn’t do it or what they did wasn’t wrong. Look at Charles Manson. He’s considered pure evil, even though he never actually killed anyone. But what he did do was convince others to kill multiple people; years later, he still maintains that he did nothing wrong or that what he did was somehow justified. That really is madness!
So, in my many moments of self-reflection, I compare who I was then to who I am now, and I see two completely different people.
Then, I was a lying, cheating, manipulative high school teacher who slept with numerous other teachers, then made out with a former student. That’s who I was, and that will never change.
Now, I am a dedicated and honest husband, father, writer, and public speaker who is faithful to my wife, honest with my family, and who writes and speaks-out against sexual abuse.
When I was a horrible person, no one knew, so everyone thought I was good.
Now I am a good person, but no one cares because of who I was (and am no longer).
And that is pure madness!
So, before you judge the entirety of “me” based on the worst thing I’ve ever done, please, by all means, tell everyone around you the deepest details about your deepest darkest secrets — and see how they judge you. Is it in your past? Should people judge you for that? Or do you want to be known (and judged) for the person you are now, living with the lessons you’ve learned from your failures and errant choices?
Humans learn more from their failures than they do from their successes. All of us — every last one of us — learned valuable life lessons based on our worst life failures. But the only difference between you and me: My failures were on the news; yours are buried deep in your memory. Maybe you didn’t do the terrible thing I did, but that doesn’t mean your secret wouldn’t be every bit as damaging to the way people view you — as a person.
Are you who you are — or are you who you were?
Personally, I am who I am now — I am not who I was.
To think anything different is pure and complete madness.