I had an epiphany last week. For the past several months I’ve been part of a team working on a special project at work. As time has past I’ve become increasingly frustrated with some of my coworker’s lack of organization and time management skills. I was thinking about voicing my frustrations but was figuring out the most diplomatic way to do so. Last week was the final due date and we got feedback from the suits in charge. The whole project was a big success and we were praised for our hard work. Some of my frustrating coworkers were even singled out for doing such a good job. I quickly realized that the project’s success undercut ever possible complaint I was ready to give. If the project was a failure I could point to the lack of time management and organization as key factors. I lost all credibility if I were to voice my frustrations now. That’s when the epiphany occurred. I realized the only problem in the situation was my own. Just because I felt the work could’ve been done in a better way did change the end result. It’s very difficult to persuade people to do something better just for the sake of doing it better. My coworkers were happy with their work and so was my boss. My opinion didn’t change the end result. I even pictured them responding with “Why do you care?” if I had spoken up.
This idea caused me to take a closer look at the conflicts in my personal life too. How many of them were legitimate problems and how many of them were based in my own “I know better” attitude. I’m suspect I’m not alone here because there is a growing trend in our society where people feel they have not only the right but the obligation to call out all imperfect behavior. Whether it be bad grammar, bad fashion or a phobic remark, we are quick to point out the error to serve our own self-righteous need. I remember a friend telling a story about how a woman confronted him at a restaurant for being (what she thought was) too fat. She stated that she was simply doing it for his own good and that she cared about his well-being. He didn’t back down and informed her that in fact the only thing she cared about in this situation was her own self-righteous indignation. He was right. The only things she really care about was being able to go home feeling like she had done a good dead by telling a fat person to stop eating. While this is an extreme example it does illustrate the larger point. While there might be legitimate problems that should be addressed admit there are also times when the only problem is that we think we know better and feel we need to educate everyone about the error of their ways. This is a topic that is full of gray areas so take each situation case by case. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself some basic questions: Do their actions directly impact you in a negative way? Are their actions causing measurable or immediate harm themselves in any way? So before you call out your brother for posting too many selfies realize that just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Also acknowledge your motivation might have more to do with the ego boost you get because you feel that somehow you are above him because you don’t do such things. Self righteous indignation often masks itself as care and concern.