Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | June 28, 2013

We Can Run, But We Can’t Hide

No one guaranteed that we’d never be clueless.

No one guaranteed that we’d never be idiots.

No one guaranteed that we’d never be assholes.

Sometimes we are, every one of us.

Stupidity is inevitable. We are, after all, human. The question is how much we invest in avoiding it.

Most of us invest a lot in avoiding stupidity, but we rarely ask ourselves whether the investment was worth it. Just precisely how often would we be clueless, idiots, or assholes if we stopped trying to avoid it and were just honest — if we dropped all the bullshit and let ourselves be ourselves?

If your answer to that question is, “Often,” then you should stop trying to avoid looking stupid and figure out what makes you act that way. Then fix it. Many people don’t think that they can. Not true. Probably more to the point, though — many people are afraid to face their stupidity, let alone face the question what to do about it.

If your answer is, “Seldom,” then consider: how much time and energy do we waste avoiding stupidity that simply wouldn’t happen anyway? What’s more, how often do our attempts to avoid being clueless, idiotic assholes turn out to be just as clueless, idiotic, and assholish as what we were trying to avoid?

If those were the only possible answers, we’d be further ahead by just being honest. But the answer most of us would honestly have to give is, “Not sure.” Because most of us haven’t actually tried letting ourselves go, aside from drunken parties, Bohemian groves, or other scenes where clueless, idiotic, assholeish behavior is expected. We were taught and warned not to dare. So, we keep ourselves perpetually in check and, therefore, uninformed.

Being a clueless, idiotic asshole isn’t all that bad, anyway. We all know it. We survive. People forgive. If you think about the biggest clueless, idiotic assholes you know, their worst feature is their denial. They’d automatically be more tolerable if they’d just admit it. So would we. Besides, occasionally acting like clueless, idiotic assholes is the quickest way to get to the bottom of the problems that made us that way. Being one seemed like a good idea at the time for some reason, but what? Why did it appeal to us? Why weren’t we aware of more constructive and acceptable options? What predisposed us and motivated us? What did we think we’d achieve? And how did all that work out for us?

When things are out in the open, they are easier to see, plus people suddenly compete to give us lots of help! 🙂 Few other behaviors garner such immediate attention. True, we need to sift through the “help” to get the truly helpful stuff out of it, because clueless, idiotic assholes — honest and otherwise — tend to upset people and get them scurrying around, trying to nip the problem in the bud, having no clue what might happen next if they don’t. That’s OK. We only scared them. They’ll get over it. The ones who care about us will realize that we meant no harm — we were just being us — and will help us better ourselves. The rest? Well, what do uncaring opinions really matter?

The alternative is what most of us do: prescreen every word and action to avoid negative repercussions from scared people. (Abusive people and bullies are scared, too — they’re just aggressive about it.) That’s typically considered commendable, what being a “nice person” is all about, and it’s a lot of work. It leaves little capacity to pay attention to anyone besides ourselves. It’s really hard to love them when we’re busily protecting us. It also leaves us unclear about who we actually are. How can we know ourselves if we don’t let the real us — the whole real us — come out? Short of that, the real us exists only in our minds.

The prospect of unfiltered expression gives people shudders — that is, those who have the temerity to actually consider trying it. Most simply dismiss the idea — or crucify it. But if all we express is an acceptable, prescreened subset of what goes on inside, we shouldn’t expect to experience authentic relationship. We can’t connect without being vulnerable. We can’t maintain personal integrity by hiding behind customized versions of ourselves, keeping our dearest truths secret. To hide is to deny our very worth and deny others the blessing of it. How, then, having denied our integrity, can we expect others to validate it? How can we expect to be appreciated when we, ashamed, hide from view?

I’ve never met a person who didn’t need to come out. Me included. The telltale sign that we need to do exactly that has nothing to do with estimations of possibility or prudence or consequence, but the fact that we instinctively recoil from the prospect before even trying to see how it works. We all have experiences that prove what bad things can happen when we’re vulnerable — most of them when we were younger, and most involving the vulnerability of innocence. We’re no longer innocent once our vulnerability has been violated, but it doesn’t mean that vulnerability is now impossible. Far from it — afterwards it’s even more profound.

Experienced, sapient, deliberate vulnerability from a position of personal integrity — honoring our own sovereignty, dignity, and beauty — is an entirely different proposition than being a doormat. And it gets a whole different reaction, especially from potential violators. You’ll see if you try.



  1. I loved this post. As an “educated academic” it is so easy to fall into a pattern of self protection, intellectual effusiveness, etc. But the reality is – even in the areas where I am so certain I’m right – I might be wrong. Is that so bad?

    • Thanks Pete! Being wrong isn’t so bad at all. Funny how everything gets more fun once we realize this–because, judged objectively, we’re wrong almost all of the time. Just ask someone about us in a few hundred years, lol!

      In fact, according to Tor Nørretranders, mistakes as represented by “exformation” are the real (and quantifiable!) measure of the value of information and knowledge. Kathryn Schulz wrote a delightful book “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” which reminds us that what we call “learning” is all about error. All in all, once we appreciate it, being wrong is a gas! 😀

      So what’s your field? I love learning from academics.

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