Am I justifying bad behavior? What to do when you’re in the wrong
What does justifying bad behavior look like?
Let’s say your mom is getting married. You’re planning on going, of course… but then you get once in a lifetime tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. You were going to go to your mom’s special day… but then again, it’s the concert of a lifetime… so you go to the show instead.
It’s not that bad, right? You never really approved of the man your mother is marrying, anyway. So what’s the big deal?
In a recent episode of our podcast, Am I The Bleep?!, we read a story from an anonymous poster where this ACTUALLY happened. In an attempt to try justifying her bad behavior, the poster added addendums to their post—saying she “didn’t approve” of the marriage, and that the concert was a very special experience for them.
Clearly, they were in the wrong. Despite this, we all justify our actions sometimes, even when we’re totally, completely wrong. It’s as human as anything else. So, how do you know when you’re not on the right side of an argument?
Here’s how to know when you’re justifying bad behavior, and what to do about it.
How to know when you’re justifying bad behavior
You’re making up reasons after you made a decision
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We all know why we do things. If you choose to do something that might seem morally wrong, then you probably have some pretty straightforward reasons in your mind. For instance, if, like our poster, you choose to go to a concert over a wedding, your reasons are probably:
- I love the artist I’m seeing
- I’m prone to prioritizing my own gratification
- I don’t mind letting my relationships suffer as long as I get what I want
These are deep-seated convictions a lot of us have, but don’t say aloud. To defend against feeling bad for bad reasons, we try to come up with new, “less bad” reasons that sound good to ourselves and those around us.
In this way, our reasons *suddenly* start changing after we’ve made a decision. Now you’re going to a concert because you don’t like your mom’s husband, and it’s justifiable because you’ll never see this artist again in your life.
…See how it works?
If you’re making up new reasons to explain your behavior, you’re probably justifying bad behavior.
You’re diminishing the needs of others
When you make a decision, it affects different parties in different ways. If you find your decision will negatively impact other parties involved, but positively impact you, then you’re probably justifying a bad decision.
Your relationships with others suffer for your decision
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Sure, you might enjoy what you’ve chosen to do, but you can’t be upset when your relationships with others suffer as a result. Expect relationship problems down the road, and don’t be surprised when you receive a lack of communication while trying to fix things.
What to do about justifying bad behavior
Make peace with your real reasons
Obviously, the best thing to do when you’ve chosen poorly is to not do what you’ve done. But seeing as we can’t change the past, if the damage is already done, you’ve got to make peace with the reasons that led to your behavior.
This means coming face to face with what you’ve decided. If you skipped out on a brother’s graduation to get drunk with friends, then you’ve got to come to terms with the fact that you don’t value your relationship with your brother as much as you do having fun with friends.
This step is CRUCIAL. Why? Because it’s only after we come to terms with our deeper motivations that we can change them.
After naming your reasons, challenge your beliefs
If you didn’t feel some sense of guilt over your bad behavior, you wouldn’t be second-guessing yourself in the first place. That’s a good sign! It means you’re willing and open to changing.
So, once you’ve come to term with your bad reasons for justifying your behavior, start thinking about your underlying beliefs that led to that behavior. For instance, in the case of our wedding skipper, their REAL reason for not attending was that they prioritized their own gratification over maintaining a good relationship with their mother.
After admitting that, we’d encourage the poster to critically examine that belief. Is that a belief that serves them? Do they want to hold onto it? Or would they prefer to believe they prioritize their relationship with their mother over their own self-interest?
Naming a new, better belief will help our poster recontextualize further communications with their mother. By believing in the importance of their relationship, the poster can then think of ways to act in accordance with that belief—by apologizing to their mom, offering to make it up to her, finding ways to sell the concert tickets and instead attending the wedding, etc.
THAT’S how to stop justifying bad behavior, and start living up to beliefs that are worth having.
Want more advice like this? Listen to Am I The Bleep?! to see how we weigh in on all kinds of moral quandaries like these!
AITA for leaving my sister's wedding?
In this corner, weighing at a combined 450 lbs, we have The Jonathans. A destructive duo ready to dive in and do what they do.
In the opposing corner, weighing in at 0 lbs, we have Chat GPT. The force coming to take Jonathan's job right from their grasp. And it means it, folks!
That's right! In this cage match episode, The Jonathans go head-to-head(?) with an invisible enemy to see who can not only determine who the A**hole is but also offer some impactful coaching. Will ChatGPT be able to be successful in it's endeavor to take the Jonathans down, or will the Jonathans unplug the computer, reboot it, blow on its floppy disk, and wait 5 long minutes with a cold stare as CHATGPT crashes and falls into its blue screen of death?
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