Man in the Mirror
Americans used to be a people who tried to better themselves. We understood that we had flaws, and worked on those flaws to improve ourselves to become better people. And those improvements were found through introspection, and increasing our self-awareness. We looked at ourselves, and discovered our short comings, and worked to improve them.
We always believed we were a work in progress, striving to improve ourselves, whether it was through our faith, spirituality, or personal growth; we turned to our religion, yoga, meditation, Zen, self-help programs, education, you name it. We tried to transcend our material existence, and tap into something beyond the mundane and profane of daily life. People went out to find themselves because they acknowledged that they were not a finished product, and they had more to learn, and much room to grow.
People didn’t wear their virtue, their righteousness on their sleeves, or post it on social media (there wasn’t social media back then). And those who did put their virtue on display, were dismissed as the frauds and hypocrites they most often were. Those who genuinely tried to improve themselves, did so, not to gain social credit, or false virtue; they did it for its own inherent good.
Our literature and movies reflected our want, our need for personal growth, development of character, and desire for morality. Our critical eye was pointing into ourselves. We tried to become better people by becoming more compassionate, more understanding, more charitable, and more loving. We looked inward, believing the best way we can make the world better is by making ourselves better people. As Michael Jackson sang in 1987, “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Conversely, today people look outward to blame others for their problems, believing that judging and changing other people is the only way to make their lives, and the world better. Michael Jackson’s sentiment has been flipped on its head; it has become, ‘if you want to make the world a better place, judge others, and force your beliefs down their throat.’
Now, our critical eye is pointing at others, highlighting their flaws, putting their mistakes on display, as we sit up high, imperiously passing harsh judgements on those who don’t think exactly like us. Our mindset has morphed from ‘I need to get better’ into, ‘I am better than everyone else’. We believe we can improve ourselves by destroying others, lift ourselves up by knocking others down. This is the root motivation of the virtue signaling that is rampant through our society, ‘look at how great I am because I pointed out how bad others are’. This shallow way to view others, and improve ourselves is self-deluding. And as the old saying goes, “you don’t get to heaven off the sins of others.”
But we have become a society that is constantly patting ourselves on the back for how virtuous we are, how great of people we are, yet we have become the most judgmental, dismissive, unforgiving, and unempathetic people there is. We cancel others. We arrogantly deny others their right to speak because we believe our beliefs make us so virtuous, that anyone who disagrees with us must be so evil that they do not deserve basic human rights.
There is no grace anymore, no room to forgive anymore, no desire to understand a differing point of view. People are judged immediately with no context, no perspective, no empathy. The only mitigating context from society’s judgement is our political beliefs. Certain political beliefs grant the holder an eternal moral and social get out of jail free card, while other political beliefs render the holder of those beliefs instantly guilty of any charge.
Jesus said, “he who is without sin, may cast the first stone.” By the sheer volume of stones that we lobby at each other, apparently our country is infested with sinless, blameless people.
The Christian faith believes we are all sinners who fall short, and are in need of saving. There are no saviors among us, just sinners. God is our savior. And understanding that, we have no place to judge another, we are simply called to love each other, love our fellow man, because that is what sinners need most of all, love. But the self-righteous virtue-signalers who call for others to be cancelled do not have the capacity to love, to forgive, for compassion.
We used to be a people who championed listening to each other, understanding others points of view. Today, we are a people who champion canceling each other, judging and punishing others for having different beliefs as us. In two generations, we went from “I’m not okay” to “I’m okay, you’re okay” to “I’m perfect, your evil.”
The world is in dire need of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Each and every one of us needs that desperately, and the ones who claim they don’t are so deluded that they need it most of all. Until we approach each other with an open and forgiving heart, we will never have open and honest dialogue. Until we have the humility to admit our own frailties, and accept others different points of view, we will never have the compassion for other people that we need to actually make the world a better place. Compassion, forgiveness and love will be our salvation, not judgement, not punishment, and definitely not cancelation.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.