“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” – Emerson
Whether we realize it or not, we carry a future orientation, a continuing belief in something more … something more for us and for the world we live in … and along with that belief comes disappointment.
Our ability to be conscientious … to do the right thing, to hold a sense of integrity about our actions and decisions … that capacity doesn’t include disappointment does it? Disappointment is supposed to come afterward … after we are done, learning, committing and doing, right? After we have exercised conscientious action … well, maybe not …
I don’t like being disappointed any more than you do!
So what am I saying? … I’m saying that conscience is more than the evaluation of right and wrong given a context of vulnerability and reciprocation. It’s our response to what’s at stake; it’s about our disappointment and our jubilation.
Let’s look at an example:
David wants to marry Alicia. He’s picked out the ring and now he’s working up the courage to ask her. He knows everything is about to change. And, not wanting to jinx himself, he’s never thought about what might happen if Alicia said “no.” Sure, it might happen, but all of David’s energy has been on mentally reading himself to act on his dream.
So what does conscientious action have to do with this scenario?
David’s measuring vulnerability and reciprocation. Can he uphold his end of the deal? Is he being fair to himself and to Alicia? This is not just about what his life will be, it’s also about what their shared life together will be. Conscientious action always holds a shared perspective (even when it’s just a one-sided dream).
And because so many of our dreams include others, we are shocked and disappointed when things don’t go “as expected.” We discover, often belatedly, that the horsemen of our disappointed dreams are waiting … ready to wreak havoc with our relationships … simply because we never appreciated just how dependent we became on living “the truth and vision” of our one-sided dreams.
(Creative imagination has a lot to do with that. Our one-sided dreams are highly charged beliefs that take on a life of their own – making truth out of our beliefs.)
So here’s what we know.
There are four horsemen: Blame, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. They appear whenever we are marginalized or excluded. They are created unconsciously by one-sided dreams. And, the energy we use to include others in our dreams works to exclude them – if we are inflexible with our dreams. The horsemen are bent on relationship apocalypse. Energized by one-sided dreams, they destroy our belief in shared ideals and values.
So what happens?
- With Blame – we attack the “other” for failing to be what we expect.
- With Defensiveness – we “save face” ourselves by refusing to admit our contribution.
- With Contempt – we belittle the “other” by devaluing the part they hold in our one-sided dream.
- With Stonewalling – we stand against the “other” by refusing the dream altogether.
Not a very pretty picture, right? David’s world is, unknowingly, bent for destruction.
That future orientation we have, it carries one-sided dreams of something more … for us and for the world we live in … even without our being aware of it. No wonder we are so often disappointed.
Emerson writes: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”
How true! Acting conscientiously does become easier with practice, AND it will always be emotionally hard to test out our expectations. To be vulnerable and to expect reciprocity requires a level of trust (not in our one-sided dreams) but rather in our ability to hold our expectations loosely.
And … oh … David and Alicia?? … They got married.
Do you feel that inner desire for a just and equitable future? Jubilation is possible. It happens all the time. Shared values are real.
Thanks for listening!