I was listening to a podcast that was studying how a blighted neighborhood had begun to turn itself around and thrive in the face of economic hardship and the lowering of opportunities that almost always follows descent into poverty. In this case, the secret resided in one woman who simply decided that gangs and crime were not going to win. She began fighting back — with one of her first lines of defense being eradicating early signs of blight. She found ways to fix the little things before they became big things. She worked to find sponsors, she taught people how to DIY, she actually would stop and talk to people who were in the process of vandalizing and stealing — often convincing them to stop what they were doing because they were actually hurting their own community. The poverty still exists, but the community is thriving and strong — largely because of the effort to stop blight in its tracks.
I guess because I tend to see metaphors in life, I began to think about how this could apply to me. Of course, I struggle with time and projects, and keeping up with my home has become a struggle lately. So, on a personal level, working to tidy, declutter, and improve my home — inside and out — would be the most obvious application. Pitching in to help neighbors or volunteering with community groups would be another.
The problem is that I place more priority on what’s going on inside a person than on what’s happening on the outside. Can people have internal blight?
I am convinced we all can.
I would call it rationalization and denial. To me, it could look like any of these things:
- Taking office supplies from work because you’re not getting compensated for all the extra time you spend at the office.
- Telling yourself that you work hard for your family, and they should appreciate that effort and give you a break when you come home.
- Driving yourself crazy from fatigue and stress because you are trying to present yourself as the perfect spouse, employee, boss, etc.
- Convincing yourself that it’s ok that you kind of treated someone badly — they would have done the same to you in similar circumstances.
You get the idea — the list is kind of endless.
There are virtues that have held fast throughout history: honesty, integrity, loyalty, courage, etc. I am totally suggesting that these are the foundations of strong character and a happy life — a thriving inner community, if you will.
When we rationalize decisions, turn a blind eye to things that we do which are contrary to standards of virtue, or disregard our own values for even a moment, we may be showing early signs of inner blight. Sure, we have bad days, we get exhausted, we make mistakes — that’s not the end of a good person!
The problem is that we have to be aware that any time we cave, we become more inclined to cave repeatedly. If we are watching for early signs of blight, we recognize that we need to monitor the part of ourselves that has shown some moral weakness and take corrective action if we see a pattern.
Sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? It is — I can say so from experience. I can also say from experience that following this kind of process with a good attitude and the vision of who I want to be makes the journey much more pleasant! It’s also very fulfilling to be able to look in the mirror every morning and know, no matter what is going on or what opinion anyone else holds, I am satisfied with who I am.