AND Recognize Means and Ends

May 18th, 2014

Over the past several months one of my sisters and I have been planning a surprise party for another sister. We set out to bring family members together to celebrate one who usually takes care of celebrating them. In the process, and to accomplish our ends, we found ourselves having to anticipate and cover any gaps that could undermine the surprise. AND such commitment to the end meant—of necessity—keeping secrets and engaging in conspiratorial detours and distractions.

Given our honorable end, the process has been a riot to watch. The secret gets harder and harder to keep as the time nears. Specific tactics that appeared to serve in the early stages of planning are no longer effective because the circumstances that made them appropriate have changed. AND as more people want to be involved in celebrating my sister, our deceptions feel more contrived and exclusionary, as we remain true to our original end of bringing family together to celebrate.

The cost of keeping secrets, excluding others from being in the know, and deliberately misleading our soon-to-be-honored guest becomes increasingly weighty over time. I find myself noticing the energy used to hide something, as opposed to sharing it, as increasingly demanding. Without focus and self-monitoring, it would be very easy to slip up, and I am acutely aware of how people get lost in secrets, deception and games if they lose sight of the goal.

Such is the context for secrets, for games played to exclude others, perpetuate a lie, or create a storyline that we tell ourselves for so long that it can become real. I am not suggesting that secrets, deception, or games are inherently bad. What I am aware of is the cost of such means when the perpetrators become lost in the means, forgetting the ends.

Conscious choices to support a shared act of kindness that involve otherwise undesired behavior help us to recognize the intention and context. The ends do not justify behaviors that are hurtful. They may necessitate reframing the situation to allow for otherwise undesirable behaviors to serve the greater good. AND when they do, we who perpetrate the climate of secrecy are accountable for its impact.

Whether we have been successful or not, we have clearly chosen the games of deception to support the celebration. Every choice has meaning only in the context in which it is applied. Make sure the end is worthy and the means are ones for which you would gladly take a stand. AND don’t confuse the two!


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