We’re powerful creatures, us humans, we have the power to create our truth. We have the power to make something right and OK simply because we believe it to be. The danger with this power is not realising it’s our version of the truth. Just because we believe it and have given ourselves sufficient reasons to believe it doesn’t actually mean it’s real or right.
Justification is one of the tools we use to create our version of the truth. Acknowledging how we apply justification to our thoughts gives us an opportunity to grow and change as we recognise the limitations this creates.
Justifying removes accountability and responsibility
By believing that the ability to choose is out of our control we excuse ourselves from accepting responsibility and accountability for the decision and its implications. The way we remove our ability to choose is by providing ourselves with only one ‘right’ option.
- “I have to…”
This phrase removes choice from our mindset and becomes something imposed on ourselves (by ourselves) instead of a decision we actively make. The fact is almost everything in life is something we choose to do not something we have to do.
- “It’s not my fault” / “It’s just the way that I am” / “I was told I had to” / “It’s God’s will”
We aren’t always responsible for what happens in our lives but we are always responsible for how we deal with it. Placing the blame for the situation on someone else is another way of justifying to ourselves that we have no choice or control. Consider for a moment the different outcomes that occur when a victim of crime follows the same path or chooses to become an activist preventing future crime. Same situation but the acceptance of choice and responsibility provide very different outcomes.
In the end, despite what has happened in your life there comes a point where you choose your own path. Whether you want to admit it or not, ignoring your ability to choose is making a decision in itself. You’re choosing to stay with the status quo and are denying accountability for this decision.
Justifying makes you feel better
When something doesn’t feel right or causes a battle within, we look for ways to make ourselves feel good again*. One of the ways we do this is by coming up with reasons that support the decision we wanted to make so it then becomes the right answer.
- “I want” vs “I need”
Remember that new car/phone/shoes you wanted? The one you didn’t really need and cost a whole lot more than you wanted to spend? The one that caused guilt/shame/angst when you purchased? The one you told yourself when you purchased it that you needed it, when you actually just really wanted it. The one that you kept telling yourself it’s more economical/ practical/ useful until you got to the stage the purchase felt good and you were right to buy it? That’s the power of justification and creating a version of the truth you wanted to believe.
- “I’m entitled to feel this way”
You may have some legitimate reasons for feeling hate, anger, bitterness, or guilt in your life. These feelings are normal and acknowledging them and the situation around them is essential for balanced mental health. There does come a time, however, that we need to decide how to accept the experience and move on. It is at this point that justification can be a dangerous fuel that will continue to feed the fire of these emotions. Continually providing reasons why we have a right to feel this way keeps the emotions fresh and traps us in our current state. Again, it’s another way of making us feel better and deluding ourselves this is the only right option.
“The biggest lies are those we tell ourselves. Be honest with your desires and emotions and accept them as they are. Acknowledge that’s what makes you human and move on with it. Be real. To yourself. Always.” – S. McKiernan
Justifying makes us looks better to others
Everyone wants to be liked. At some level, we all seek approval from others and confirmation that we’ve achieved this. If we doubt we’ve obtained this acceptance, then one of the tools we employ to gain it, is justification. We explain our motives, thought processes, reasons and excuses. We tell our story so our audience thinks our decision was the right one and we are good people for making it. If we are responsible, accountable and honest with ourselves then we don’t need positive feedback or approval from others – we already have our own.
Acknowledging and accepting reality gives us a power far greater than our self-created, delusional truth.
- Acceptance creates internal peace as it removes the battle within.
- Acknowledging responsibility provides strength and resilience to our decision making.
- Honesty with ourselves gives us integrity and authenticity
- Faith in our own decisions raises our self-esteem and confidence and reduces our reliance on acceptance from others.
- Realising we always have a choice provides a greater range of options and adds power to our decision-making process.
Justification is just a short-term feel-good fix, let it go.