Not on the Priority List part 4: One Foot Wrong

Okay, hands up and admit it. You messed up, right? What did you do? Lash out? Forget your friend’s birthday? Unleashed the hoards of Hell upon this earthly realm? Said something unintentionally offensive?

Maybe it was something more severe. Like, you gave into your feelings at the expense of someone else? Or maybe you hurt someone? Hell, maybe you even voted for Brexit? (In which case there’s nothing but damnation awaiting you, so kindly slither off my page and back into the infernal pit from which you came.) Everyone else, just admit it, you messed up.

But hey, it’s alright. I know you’re probably feeling sickened and woozy, chased by an unrelenting guilt, but that’s good; that shows you’re sorry. Guess what? We all mess up. Why? We’re human.

Lately I’ve noticed that some of us are only too quick to condemn and judge someone for their actions. We cast aside all the caring, thoughtful and good things that person has done for us as soon as they mess up. We shred their reputation and abandon this former image of them whenever their behaviour becomes slightly problematic. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t participated in this before. Why do we do it? Because it’s easier to cancel than correct; simpler to cut them off rather than offer understanding or a chance at forgiveness.

This is not a realistic, or plausible, way to view the world. Life is many things but it ain’t black and white. People can seldom be categorised into the good person, bad person genre. Life isn’t like that; it isn’t always wrong or right, good witch versus bad witch. Life often operates in a grey area. A place where you need to look into someone’s mistakes and behaviours, then try attribute logic and reason to it.

I’ll illustrate with an example: Say a friend lashed out. Why did he do this? Aggression issues, a nasty person, clearly. Or, perhaps, said person was contending with problems silently. Perhaps the lashing out with a result of mounting internal pressure. Pressure which caused an emotional cascade.

I’ve noticed a lot of people have this mentality, especially within the LGBTQ community. And I’m just going to call it what it is: a double standard. One that’s dependent on who you are, and how many people actively like or dislike you. This rings true for celebrities and your everyday average person too.

Those who cast the first stone are often sinners themselves. As much as they’d like you to believe otherwise, they aren’t paragons of morality. They just gallop in on their high horse and condemn you for something, rather than try to see the factors that contributed to the action. For a community that’s endured more than its fair share of hatred, prejudice and intolerance, we can be far too quick to launch a witch hunt.

It’s a toxic mindset, and one that only perpetuates this cancel culture we live in. A culture where if you put one foot wrong and that’s it, strike three, you’re out. We’re are all so damn messed up from society’s inherent bias against us; bruised by all the shaming, jibes & bullying we endured. So, why put that back into the world? How many times has someone tried to explain themselves to you, and you’ve just ‘not wanted to hear it’? How many times have you been in that position? Where your pleads for forgiveness, for a chance to explain, fall upon indifferent ears? Someone else should never be an outlet for that pain. We should be lifting each other up, not stomping others into the ground. Educate, don’t hate. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?

The saddening truth is that lately the only time we seem to rally together in loving support is either when someone dies, or an A list pop star is announced to be headlining a Pride event. Most of the other time we congregate online its to descend upon someone like a cabal of bloodthirsty vampires if they mess up. The internet is infectiously negative. So, try this. Take a moment from your day and transform that minute into kindness, then send that tweet to someone. Rather than use that moment to aim hate at others.

In real life we participate in the most toxic game of Chinese whispers ever, trading our sense of right or wrong for a slice of gossip about someone’s actions. Taking subtle digs by liking tweets targeted to a specific? Stop it. Wrecking lives for the sake of wanting to shame someone? Why? Nobody is perfect and there isn’t anything wrong with that – just don’t be a hypocrite.

Life is messy, it’s painful and it’s fucked up 90% of the time, but you’re not alone. We all make mistakes, but it’s the actions that follow those mistakes that define us. Self improvement doesn’t happen over night. Instead it’s a series of seemingly impossible little steps, each one allowing you to adjust and change your behaviour for the better. Keep at it, cause one day you’ll look in the mirror and you won’t hate who you see reflected back at you.

To the judging, I say this: Put down your gavel, and dismiss your jury. Everyone’s on a journey, and the roads are often rocky and treacherous, so be kind, offer forgiveness and understanding where you can. One day you’ll be on the other side of the street, and you’ll know then how isolating making a mistake can be.

To those who have messed up: You’re not broken. You made a mistake, now learn from it, apologise to the appropriate parties (yourself included) and move on. Become a better person. You got this.

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