en we have done, or are about to do, something less than acceptable, there are two distinct groups of people within the sane and conscientious.
Justifiers: People who explain why what they did weren’t all that bad, why they had no other choice, how it was a big bad but still OK because it did no harm to anyone, or how they are so selfless all the time that they are allowed to be selfish once in a while.
Accepters: People who acknowledge “Well, that was a selfish choice I made” and either accept that they are not as selfless as they wish to be and/or that they had a weak moment.
The only one of those groups has a potential for any personal growth.
You might write big essays citing academic papers to dispute me. You might have multiple Ph.D.s. But one fact is indisputable.
Justifiers validate my point by the very fact they are justifying their choice to themselves. Let that sink in for a second. The person does something, and they justify the choice to themselves, which is probably a response to them criticizing their own choice to themselves. There is nothing but “self” in that picture: it shuts everything else out. It protects and preserves the status quo.
Now, I’m not saying it’s evil to do that. I am saying it needs to be recognized as an ill-adapted coping mechanism. Just like many other ill-adapted coping mechanism, it lets you survive that moment of self-criticism and, more importantly, fear of disappointing others. And, just like any other ill-adapted coping mechanism, it’s biggest impact on your life is to keep you from growing.
But what could we have done, really. This society puts so much guilt, shame, and damages to reputation on having been wrong. This is a burden no one is expected to live with, so we have to go back and make it not wrong.
My point is this. This, the situation you grew up with, the pressure you accept as normal, isn’t “normal.” Most of the world, if you say “well, I guess that wasn’t the best choice I could have made,” they reward you for acknowledging it not punish you for having made the mistake and encourage and support you to do better in the future.
Every culture has positives and negatives. Our culture too, as much as we’d like to think it’s perfect, has devastating negatives. This one is one of them. It is up to us to get past it. The first step is admitting.