Don’t believe it. No matter how bad things are now, they could be worse. (No Pollyanna or Dr. Pangloss here.)
The more you see of life, the more hardened your perceptions become. Some may call it cynicism. But realism is more accurate.
Consider these cases:
- The owner of a mid-size business treats workers like family and feels remorse when he has to lay off an employee during a prolonged slump. But the worker files a wrongful termination suit and wins a judgment so big it nearly cripples the company. The owner’s remorse is replaced by anger.
- A youth sports organization hears rumors that one of its coaches may be abusing boys in his care. So the Board quietly begins investigating, decides they can keep a lid on it, and chooses not to pre-empt the problem. But such things seldom stay quiet. Soon outraged parents are calling, and it is front-page news in the local media.
- A financial officer at a non-profit is caught skimming money to maintain her lifestyle — a nanny, spa treatments and personal vacations. She thinks the embarrassment will be the worst price she’ll be forced to pay — until she lands in jail, with all the indignities that entails.
One theme underpins all of these: Wishful thinking. That others will be understanding even when you’re forced to make difficult decisions. That bad things will stay private if you just wish hard enough. That if you stray, punishment will be a slap on the wrist.
But the ultimate lesson is harsh and sobering. Don’t sugarcoat the possibilities. If you do and you’re wrong, the fall will be hard and painful. Better to assume the worst, then be relieved if it doesn’t happen.
Life usually works out happier that way.
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