Enough Frivolity

For those who were disappointed in the level of intelligence at the dinner party I attended, be not distressed, it did create blog fodder of a different, more fulfilling sort. Namely, a rather in-depth look at being true to oneself. Observe.


As you may recall, we took a stroll down a few avenues which help us discover how to answer the Caterpillar’s question: Who are you?

If you were not following along during the Identity Series, you may want to peruse these posts to get better acquainted with the concepts we will engage over the next few posts (and find out who Quaint is).

True to what, exactly?

Surprise! I polled my fellow conversationalists. I asked them a similar question to the one in the left side bar poll. (Please answer at the end of the post, if you have not already. Thank you.) In the interest of self-realization I asked which of those qualities they used to most identify themselves. Further explanation was:

Which characteristic do you use to identify yourself to others and which one best describes you?” 

In what I can only describe as telling: Only three of the characteristics were chosen; no one chose two different characteristics to answer the two questions and no other alternatives were offered.

They chose: Honesty, Responsibility and Kindness/Compassion. While the first split equally along gender lines, the other two were nearly gender specific: women identifying with kindness and compassion and men identifying with responsibility.

Enter Virus

To test the veracity of their answers, I posited scenarios to support or refute their self-proclaimed markers.


The preset parameter of the truth was the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All failed to choose the honest answer when the alternative was telling a lie to spare someone’s feelings. Some scenarios included:

  • Telling a child a pet had died
  • Telling a best friend they were poorly dressed
  • Admitting being fired without being specifically asked
  • Withholding negative information about a product from someone who clearly already wanted to purchase it
  • Diminishing the number of past sexual partners/experiences to preserve Mate’s opinion of them

The one who chose the honest answer to the scenarios only chose to tell the truth about being fired, as this person believed the truth would be found out during routine screening. This truth was merely self-preservative.

In all other cases, the pollsters chose to tell a compassionate lie rather than self-realize their chosen characteristic of honesty.

Ladies First

The all ladies group which chose kindness and compassion as their descriptor faced different scenarios to gauge the appropriateness of their self-chosen characteristic. Their two scenarios were:

(A) A homeless man approaches you and your children asking for money or a job. You:

  1. Ignore his request.
  2. Tell him you have no cash.
  3. Get your children in the car before handing him the smallest bill in your wallet.
  4. Give him money in front of your children.
  5. Offer him work in exchange for pay.
  6. Offer food or information on assistance available.


This is the size cart we use in the grocery.

(B) Your child sees a handicapped women shopping in a wheelchair, walks up and strikes up a conversation. The woman smiles and speaks to your child. You:

  1. Turn your child away and offer an apology for the inconvenience.
  2. Call your child to come to you.
  3. Walk over and introduce yourself and join the conversation.

The Reveal

The self-proclaimed compassionate women chose (A) 1, 2 and 3 and (B) 1, 2. Not one volunteered they would speak to their children about homelessness, handicaps or compassion. Ironically, they all believed their children to be as compassionate as they believe they are.

I am responsible.

The men and one woman chose responsibility as their self-proclaimed predominant characteristic. The scenarios presented to them were the following:

  1. Would you drive away from a parking lot fender bender if you would not be caught?
  2. Have you ever reneged on a bill for service?
  3. Would you shirk a duty at work if you knew someone else would do the work?
  4. Would you take something given to you you did not really need even if you knew of someone else who needed it?
  5. Have you ever stopped to find the owner of an animal you struck with your vehicle?

One through three were unanimously answered yes. Only two people answered the fourth question no. The last question was answered no. Overwhelmingly, the responsible people chose to take the low road instead of being responsible for their own behavior.

Was it a total wash?

No. Through the course of the explanations (which were many) to mitigate the incongruous answers, four of the subjects caught on I was exposing them. One woman approached me later and asked me how I knew she was not what she seemed. In my cryptic way, I told her, “I listened.”

The ones who figured out I was after them to self-realize (just call me the horse leader) stopped talking and started listening. They were honestly listening to what their friends were saying.

Instead of nodding in agreement to the self-proclaimed reasons which were self-forgiving or alternative behaviors which should be considered in place of the bad behavior, they were listening to the ferocity with which these unrealized proclamations truly were being defended. I believe all four were remembering when they had used the same tack to exonerate themselves.

Your Turn

Which characteristic do you use to identify yourself to others and which one best describes you?” 

You do not have to give an explanation. One word answers are fine. If you do not think the characteristics can describe you, please supply one which does. Remember, these are two different, but related, questions.

What’s left?

Talk Tuesday

There are two characteristics left on the poll: Tolerance and respect. They will be the topic of our Talk Tuesday. (The topic will be posted at 1900 EDT [GMT-5] and the discussion will begin at 2000. If you cannot stay until the discussion begins, please leave a comment or question for the group to discuss.)

© Red Dwyer 2012
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