Rationalization

When I started out as a young attorney in private practice, I handled divorce and criminal cases.  The thing that I noticed early on was that nobody accepted any blame.  They would rationalize everything that they did and remember the facts in a way that made them look better than it should have.

I represented both males and females and the results were always the same.  They either lied or manufactured a story that omitted incriminating details.  This didn’t happen every now and then.  It happened all the time.  It got to a point where I told my clients that I didn’t believe them and they had to tell me the entire truth or they would have to find another attorney to represent them.

I remember one teenager told me that he had placed the drugstore items in his pocket and just simply forgot to pay for them.  I looked him straight in the eye and asked him if he really thought I believed that story.  He laughed and said “I guess not.”  I got him to plead out and the judge let him off with community service.

A crusty judge in the community where I worked issued a ruling that made both the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys unhappy.  He called the attorneys down front and announced to them that the he knew he had made the right decision because both parties didn’t like it.  The judge believed that both attorneys were representing only half truths, so the best decision is one that nobody likes.

So, I just resigned myself to knowing that nobody was going to tell the truth and that way I was overjoyed when I ran into somebody who actually told the truth.  This might have happened twice, but I am not absolutely certain of that.  But my point is that truth is a very rare commodity in our society.  Our society does not offer much in the way of consequences for lying, so why would people tell the truth?  The rewards are much richer for those who lie or stretch the truth.

Thus, this tendency to prevaricate made me wonder if this were nature or nurture.  In other words, is this a practice that is found in our genetics or is it something we learn?  I tend to believe that we are born with a conscience and free will.  Neither of these two gifts should lead us to lying our way through life.  In fact, our conscience should act as our moral compass and take us down a path of telling the truth.  So, it must be our experiences that teach us that there are few consequences for lying.  We learn that we can lie and then rationalize what we did, salving our conscience.  After many years of lying, our conscience probably becomes immune to the constant lies.

Lying becomes a lifestyle for most since it can lead to lifetime rewards without any distracting consequences.  But I believe that the numbing of our conscience is a serious consequence.  I also believe that the real consequences occur after we die.  Even though I don’t know for certain what happens in the afterlife, there must be consequences of some kind.  Otherwise, life makes no sense.  Why would we have free will and make decisions if there were no consequences?

Life would be quite absurd if we were never held accountable for our actions.  Choices and consequences are intertwined.  You cannot have one without the other.  The fact that there are no consequences during life, simply proves that there is an afterlife with consequences awaiting.  Unfortunately for most of us, that is the truth.