Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. (Part 1)

by teresalaynebennett

photo of guy's legs sticking out from under a pickup

How can THIS be relevant?

Sorry. I know you’ve heard the above proverb lots, but hang with me.

Like you, I’ve recited it to myself a bazillion times and STILL, I find myself doing something simply because I can. I zoom right past should-I? and jump recklessly into can-do. Even though I know better, I don’t do better. Sound familiar? Okay, so we know this stuff, but we don’t do it.

What makes us persist
in such muzzy behavior?

Beats me. Maybe because knowing and doing are two entirely different kettles of fish? Or maybe we can chalk it up to our propensity for our smartphone-induced partial attention to life – never fully paying attention to much of anything? (I doubt this is the culprit, since the condition we’re discussing is The Human Condition, predating smartphones by thousands of years. But, hey, it’s a literary transition. It’s here for reasons that will become clear in Part 2 of this topic.)

I could keep on speculating but the wretched truth is this: I don’t know why we persist in this self-sabotage. All I know is that we do and, as a result, tons of things are broken in our society. One of the most broken, due to our knowing and not doing, is the concept of appropriate behavior. Because of that, I think it’s a concept which requires a whole lot of unabashed harping. And just so you know, I HAVE asked myself Should I? and the answer, as you can see, is an emphatic, harpy yes!

Can, Should, &
“Here I am – barely made it.”
Pant. Pant. Pant.

Just because a guy can go straight from tinkering with his car to a friend’s wedding doesn’t mean he should. (See, the photo does have relevance.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Who would do that?” Actually, lots of guys.

I’ve been to hundreds of weddings (really) and truly, I’ve seen guys who looked as if they’d just crawled out from under their pickup, jumped in, fired it up, and roared into the car park for a wedding ceremony they’d apparently almost forgotten. What these turkeys should have done – regardless of what they were doing – is shower and change into appropriate clothes for The Most Important Event of a friend’s life – his wedding day.

A guy can’t get into too much trouble with his friend if he shows up at his friend’s wedding dressed the way he knows his friends and relatives expect him to dress. Guys who claim they don’t know any better are shameless liars.

On the other hand, a guy can alienate his friend’s new bride, embarrass his friend in front of his new in-laws, and do damage to a friendship going back to junior high when he defaults to the jeans-and-T-shirt uniform. Guys who do this clearly think so little of their friends that they don’t stop to ask themselves, Should I?

But it’s our right!

Yes, our society does give us all license to behave as badly and as inappropriately as we like. Besides, who are we to tell someone else what’s appropriate? Why even worry about what’s appropriate and what isn’t? Isn’t that just being hypocritical, hypercritical, and superficial?

No, as it turns out, it is not. Here’s the pay-attention bit to the much-ignored can-versus-should dilemma that I intend to harp on till we’re all sick of if. Caring about how our actions affect others is a good thing because:

doing what’s appropriate
greases the wheels
of ALL our relationships.

(Check out this post if you care about dressing appropriately purely for self-serving reasons.)

Next up is another prime example of people not paying attention and forgetting to ask Should I? It’s one we’re all supremely familiar with – either as blatant perpetrators or as hapless victims. Warning: if you’re a perpetrator, I’ll be asking you to be honest enough to ‘fess up and start asking Should I?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – G K Chesterton

A 1900s English theologian’s can-and-should