Friday, July 25, 2014

When We Know Better Do We Really Do Better?

When We Know Better Do We Do Better?
Are you among the believers that when we know better we do better? It was Maya Angelou who said, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." But does that translate to another quote Ms Angelou is credited with: "When we know better, we do better?" After all, Ms Angelou was highly evolved. But not so much the rest of us.

Most of us know better about a lot of things, yet we still choose offending or unhealthy or undesirable behaviour. And I'm not talking unconscious behaviour. I'm talking a fully conscious decision, outright ignoring what we know better about. Whatever that might be.

We know better than to smoke, but many still continue to puff away, exposing themselves and others to a score of health issues: lung cancer, heart disease and stroke to name a few.

People know that secondhand smoke also leads to disease for their children and others, yet many still choose to light up around our smallest and most helpless with little or no regard for their health outcomes.

We know better than to overeat. We even know the risks: hypertension, diabetes, gall bladder disease. Yet we still overeat. Many to the point of severe obesity.

We know better than to exclude vegetables and fruit from our diets. We know better than to drink certain drinks, hang out with certain people, behave in a certain way. We know all these things. But it doesn't stop us from doing them. It doesn't stop us from setting aside the knowledge so we don't have to think about it.

And no, I don't mean denial here. I mean that we actively and purposefully set aside what we know. We make the choice to disregard the knowledge in favour of continuing with the behaviour that goes against our better judgment.

So then, how is it that the when-we-know-better-we-do-better meme has been embraced by so many? How has this meme become so ingrained in us? Or is there something more sinister at play? Has it become a way for people to excuse their less-than-desirable behaviours?

When I knew better I did better certainly sounds good. Spiritual, even. Especially when it comes from someone who is held in such high regard. For example, Maya Angelou. I'm not even sure that she actually said some of what she's quoted as saying. Perhaps her words were condensed in such a way as to change the meaning behind them. Much like in a game of telephone.

The fact is, when we test the know-better-do-better meme, it falls apart. Epically.

We live in a world where we blame others for our misdeeds. In a world where it's too easy to not take responsibility for our own actions. In a world where so many are not held accountable for their behaviours,

Doing better does not only entail knowing better. It also means making the choice to do better. It's a two-step process, the latter of which must be chosen. But to get there, we must first accept responsibility for our behaviours that harm, hurt or offend. Only then can we be in a position to do better.

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