“It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.”
You Buy This? …
This is one of Samuel Johnson’s oft quoted sentiments and, on the surface, it sounds great. Most of us, at least according to current psychological thinking, are more likely to publicly choose the option which puts us in the best light to others. In this regard, Johnson’s quotation is a clear mandate.
One can almost imagine oneself taking a lofty (dare I say “Holier Than Thou”) stance, with head held high, but also while looking down one’s nose derisively at those who gather in the less clear ethical gutter of human behavior. The feeling of self-satisfaction is almost palpable.
Trust or Not Trust?
However, as always, we need to reflect a little more and dig a little deeper on this seemingly self-sacrificing and noble position.
Stated with other words, Johnson is suggesting that “letting ourselves be taken advantage of” or “getting screwed by someone” is preferable to being the “screwee” (if such a term actually exists). He is saying that the ability to trust outweighs the ability to always be sure you are not being cheated.
If we choose to trust and act appropriately, we may set ourselves up for a lifetime of being the object of scorn, of suffering at the hands of others, and of not getting everything that we rightfully should have in our lives.
If we choose not to trust or act appropriately, we may set ourselves up for a lifetime of profiting from the misfortunes of others and taking advantage in unfair ways of another.
Then, of course, there are “others” to consider. You are not alone in this world, are you?
… if you are part of a family or familial group, your decisions affect not only you, but others. If you are cheated, how does that affect their lives and happiness?
… if you are a leader responsible for the well-being and livelihood of others, how does your perception of what is ethical or not ethical relate to theirs?
…. if you belong to a group of any type, how does your choices affect those others with whom you share a bond of some type?
When we consider the impact of our decisions and behaviors on others, we sometimes have to modify the original thinking, but this is not a given either. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give to another is a good example to follow.
At any rate, think about the above for a bit and then let me know what you think.
Possibly nitpicking just to get a discussion going in the Heartland ….
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