Look Good, Be Right and Be in Control

Dear Client:

I may be wrong about this but I think money has gotten a bad rap. It is not the root of all evil. It may be the root of some evil, but our insatiable desire to look good, which is indistinguishable from our desire to be right and in control, should share some of the blame.

The facilitator at a personal development seminar I attended several years ago was the first person to point out the heinous potency of these desires.

This point was indelibly seared into my consciousness after I read House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. As the title implies it is a book about a house.

Do you have a relative (maybe it is your sister or your uncle) that everyone looks down on and talks about when they are not around? The person that always seems to show up a day late and a dollar short? The main female character in House of Sand and Fog who owned the house would fall a rung beneath that person in her family’s pecking order.

She inherited a home and did not have to pay anything other than the property taxes, but for many years she neglected to do so. When she finally scraped the money together to pay the back taxes the clerk in the county tax office makes a critical error and does not properly credit her account.

Since it appears the property taxes are delinquent the county mistakenly assumes ownership of the home.

And that is when the plot thickens.

An Iranian immigrant who has worked hard at jobs that nobody else wants to do in order to save money and buy a slice of the American dream purchases the home from the county.

Once the mistake is discovered, a legal battle ensues.

Her position is clear: it is my house. I paid the taxes to the county. I didn’t do anything wrong and therefore I must be right.

His position is equally clear: It is my house. I bought it from the county. I didn’t do anything wrong and therefore I must be right.

As the story unravels it became clear that the battle between the man and the woman became less and less about the house and more and more about looking good, being right and being in control.

The woman didn’t want to look bad to her family. She was the family screw-up, and she was afraid that losing the house would reinforce her family’s low opinion of her.

The man was more interested in looking good and appearing to be in control than he was in holding onto the house. In Iran he held a position of respect and great stature. When he came to this country, his status took a major hit and he spent his days swallowing his pride. In his mind losing the house was another slap in the face that he was not willing to endure.

What’s the moral of the story? (Don’t worry; I won’t spoil the ending). The consequences of placing our desire to look good, be right and be in control above all else can be devastating. Check yourself and make sure this desire is not what is motivating you.

This is an excerpt from Letters to a New Divorce Client. Download a copy below:
Letters to a New Divorce Client

Photo Credit: Visual Hunt

Posted in Letters to a New Divorce Client.

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