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C11P13 – The Needy

C11P13 – The Needy published on 11 Comments on C11P13 – The NeedyPurchase

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It’s been an interesting first month at the school. I’m always amazed by how much I learn from the kids. About life, about myself. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about justifiable vs understandable bad behavior. Sometimes a kid comes in, and you can tell that they’re having a bad day from the very start. They’re exhausted, they’re sick, there is clearly something that went wrong between home and the classroom. And then they start to make bad choices. Which have to be addressed, because if one kid starts ignoring classroom rules, they all do. And that, in turn, can cause a melt-down, which is frustrating for student and teacher.

But making bad choices, and pushing ourselves too far, isn’t something that stops when we’re all grown up. We just get better at rationalizing and justifying. If we act badly, but we think we’re in the right, or we don’t know any better, we excuse it by saying “It was justified.”

Thinking on it now, I don’t think bad behavior, by which I mean actions or choices that are counter to what we would consider a personal principal, are ever justified. They are, however, understandable.

If a kid is exhausted and as a result distracted and prone to outbursts, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t learn better coping strategies, or that they shouldn’t be held accountable. On the other hand, it is understandable that they’d behave that way. That doesn’t make it right, but it does mean that allowances can be made, and mistakes forgiven. It isn’t an excuse, or a free pass. There’s still expectations, and there’s still consequences. But it is a more compassionate acceptance of a condition that exists, in the here and now, with the opportunity to do better next time.

And I think that I could stand to view myself that way more too. I hate making mistakes, and I’ll hold grudges against myself for years over the slightest thing. (I still remember mistakes made in junior high, and beat up on myself for saying or doing something stupid…as if I was the only 13 year old that ever did something dumb.) And if I ever behave badly, no matter the circumstance, I treat it as unforgivable. As evidence that I am a Huge Disappointment To Everyone. And I justify that by telling myself, “If I don’t dwell in these mistakes, I’ll never learn.”

But now I’m thinking that, while it’s important to acknowledge and examine deeds done wrong, it’s also just as important to accept that sometimes bad behavior happens for understandable reasons. As much as I might wish it, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I get worn out, stressed out, exhausted, ill, hungry (especially hungry) and I do or say things I wish I could take back. And if I can accept that it was understandable, but not justified, then I can still learn from the mistake without drowning in guilt or self-recrimination. I can give myself the opportunity to do better next time.

Even now I’m fighting with this idea. Part of me wants to say “You can’t go easy on mistakes like that! It will just encourage you to slack off, and then where will you be? An even worse person, that’s where!” It occurs to me that this is why I struggle with the concept of forgiveness. I view it as though it is a free pass to behave badly, but maybe instead it’s actually letting go of hurting one’s self over the past.

What do you think about the difference between something justified and something understandable?


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

(English is not my native language, alas)

On the comic:

I am loving Lu Pai and Una more and more with each page.
I find it interesting to see that Lu Pai has a Robin-Hoodlike attitude.
Attacking the scion? Sure! Bringing trouble to the governor? Why not?
But he also brings money to the poor, to ‘the needy.’ Suddenly, he become more than the manically laughing “Ol’ Lu”
And that while Una is developing in the opposite direction. First, she was a amusing character, seeming ‘nicer’ than Lu Pai. But now she shows a harsher side of herself.
And as a bonus, they have a shared past!
I am curions to the next pages…

On the difference between justifiable and understandable.

I think that almost nothing of our wrong deeds are justifiable. There must be a very, very good reason for justifying.
I am against the very idea of ‘The end justifies the means.’
For me, it is the exact opposite: ‘The means can dishonour the end.’
You must look out with justifying. Otherwise it becomes a very nasty habit.

But understandable… Yes, that is something I can agree with.
I believe that everything we do is understandable. Even the most villanious, horrible action.
Sometimes it might not seem possible to understand. Sometimes I cannot grasp why someone could have done that.
But learn to know, and understand, the human (not the monster) behind the crime, and you will understand him and his reason. So I believe.
I am of course not saying it is easily, it is rather difficult. But it is possible.

I see that I have typed a little essay, so I will just end with ‘Thank you for that interesting insight in understanding and justifying.’

Hi Pieter! Sorry it took so long for me to reply. It’s been a crazy month.

I’ve never heard someone express an opposite view to “the end justifies the means,” so eloquently as you have here. The idea that “The means can dishonor the end” makes the problem with ruthless thinking really clear. I really like how you presented that idea.

And I’m glad you’re enjoying Lu and Una’s characters. They’re some of my favorite people on the cast and I’m glad that I decided to make some more time to share them.

I am really liking this dynamic between them. They’re starting to get really complex.

I am the kind of person who tends to be too empathetic, I guess. I make too many allowances for other people and then I have a hard time advocating for my own needs with people who I know have it rough. It’s really just a balancing act. And I think what you really have to watch out for is if the person is taking advantage of your generosity. Do they admit that they did wrong, even though xyz contributed, or do they excuse themselves based on it? Are they surprised when you offer them a free pass, or do they expect it? That’s where the line gets drawn, I think.

I have a hard time with not justifying otehrs’ actions, but a hard time with understanding my own. I’m super harsh on myself,b ut will giveothers free passes for things that don’t deserve even understanding. I’ve trained myself to believe that other people are more worthy of love and forgiveness than I am, and that I am worthy of neither love or forgiveness, because I’m a wretched and awful human being.

Which is, frankly, an awful and miserable way to live so I’m working on it. IT’s just… hard sometimes.

I have the same struggle. One of the things I’ve been trying to work on lately that I think is related is redefining my understanding of the word “Trust.”

To me, if I trust someone, it means I put my personal well-being — emotionally, psychologically, physically — in their hands. I am trusting them not to abuse my trust. To consider my needs and limitations and as a result not do things that step over the line. However, I am realizing there are a lot of problems with this. For one, it gives a huge advantage to abusers, because when they DO push too far, it’s “not their fault, because you didn’t tell me not to.” There is a built-in, victim blaming excuse. On the flip side, it also means I take a passive role in my own life. Rather than expressing desires, boundaries, limits, and goals, I assume someone else will be aware of those better than I am. So I justify the actions of others, and blame myself for my own failure to engage. Nasty cycle.

Cory’s suggested that an alternative definition of trust that I should try is this: “Trust is the reasonable expectation that everyone, given the opportunity, will behave like an adult.”

Now, how I define “adult” may vary, but it does imply that everyone involved needs to take responsibility for their actions, and while they should be considerate, they should also take care of themselves. It opens up the possibility of frank, clear dialog, because then I’m not avoiding telling somebody something because A) they SHOULD know it, or B) They’ll punish me for not trusting them. Adults talk to each other like…well…adults.

So I’m trying it out. It seems to help my own balance a little bit. And an adult can do something that’s immature, and while it can be forgiven, I don’t feel as obligated to justify it as “right.”

I have things that I’ve said and done that I recall from decades ago. I’m 100% sure that most of them were soon forgotten by the people that were the victims. We can be too harsh on ourselves. Most people just live in the moment.


Well. my internal reaction. Una wouldn’t appreciate it, probably, but Una never has to know.

Una would pretend to appreciate it, but yeah she’d totally not trust that impulse at all. She’d be trying to figure out what your angle was. And resent the implication that something is wrong with her. Although she’d be intrigued by the threat of violence. She could totally work with that.

My inner Una is giving me scary looks…Okay…yeah…Don’t Hug Una. I think that’s the lesson we’ve all learned today…

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