There is more to explanations than what they explain.
Equally important to what we explain is what we justify. If you accept an explanation someone gives you what does that explanation justify? What door does it open? What cause does it serve?
If an explanation says something is true what else must be true?
Often benign sounding explanations justify horrendous actions. Read Bob Whittaker’s Mad in America that recounts the history of the mental health system in America and see how often “truth” justifies atrocity.
Every truth makes some action okay. Every truth comes with an arrow that points you in some direction. Make sure it is safe and worth going before you start your journey.
Many explanations justify us getting our way. As I get older I am astonished with how much of our explanations are simply justifications for doing what we want to do anyway. We tell our children life is not about getting their way all the time. I doubt sometimes we ever outgrow the impulse. We just learn to tie it up in prettier packages.
I don’t begin to think that is all there is to human behavior. We have the ability to act with integrity. We have the ability to make things not about us. It is just so easy not to. We don’t always have a good reason for what we do but we have no trouble with excuses to justify it.
Look at political campaigns. How much of that is simply about justifying that you should get your way? Especially now days few campaigns are about ideas and positions. They are about how you manipulate the emotions and feelings of the people whose vote you seek to get your way. Politics seems often little more than theater.
Look at personal relationships. When they go sour how much of that is because people find endless reasons to get their way and are astonished because the other person begins to think things should be about more than that and all of the justifications in the world no longer work?
Look at any organization or group you are part of. How easy is it for the agenda of those groups to become more about the status and power of the individuals in it and less about the group? How often do the people with status and power seem to always be in search of justifications for their status and power?
Someone told me once that life often seems like being in a room that you don’t remember opening the door to.
Let it be more for you. Every explanation for the way things are is also a proposal for where to go next. Every “yes” is the first word in some agenda. Don’t walk in with unopened eyes.
Remember the most horrible things we do to each other we only do because we convince ourselves they make sense.
Seek solid reasons for the things you do. Make good decisions. Beware unexamined justifications.
Or as someone once said, “The path to hell is always paved with great justifications.”