Halos and horns, we humans. Always trying to pretend we’ve one and not the other. Always so sure if we just manage to saw off the horns, hide the tail, we’ll somehow, magically become perfect, the best, incapable of doing other than the right things.
All the honor and love given to the halo of us, unrealized potential, shining hopes, utopian dreams. While the baser, darker things are shoved into corners, hidden under rugs, pushed into closets, or buried under the weight of denial.
Have you ever tried not to think of something once you’ve thought of it? White Rabbit. Remember that game? It starts when someone says, “Don’t think of a white rabbit.” As soon as the words are spoken, there, in your mind, is the white rabbit. Not always a perfect rendition, after all, you’re not supposed to be thinking about it…. but you do.
You always do.
What if the thought is perfectly alright, as it is, no matter what?
What if the real distinction between what makes us human and what makes us monsters is not what we think, but what we do?
What if it is actually helpful and good to have “bad thoughts” because they remind us by their presence of all the choices we make, every day, to be someone who doesn’t indulge them?
What if the real difference between the halos and the horns is not what we deny and hide, but what we embrace and accept without allowing it to control?
The thing that makes us ‘bad’ or ‘good’ is not what we think, but what we do. And no matter how many times we think we’ve gotten it wrong, no matter how ugly we think we are, no matter how grotesque we think our horns are, they serve a very, very valuable purpose in our lives…. but only if we’re as willing to embrace and accept them as we are the ‘pretty’, ‘pleasant’, or ‘perfect’ things.
Humans are a combination of physiology and perception. From these two things, we make what we know as ‘reality’… and as we spin the wool into thread, and as we weave the fabric of our story, our history, our tale of ‘who we are’, ‘why we are’, ‘how we are’, we make choices between thought and deed… we create ourselves.
No matter what we think, it is not the thinking that hurts or harms. It is the doing. Choosing to be unkind or uncaring, to be hurtful or thoughtless…. it is impossible to do these things to others without having first done them to yourself.
When you really understand that, really take what it means and apply it to your filter of looking at others, at the world — you’re going to see something that hurts, but that also heals, if you let it.
No matter who it is, everyone in the world wants the same things — to be happy, to feel value, to feel worthwhile, to belong. The only difference between the halos and the horns is that we tend to reject the horns — be them our own or others — but they are no different than the halos, they want the same things.
Of course, you already know this…. but if you’re like me, you don’t remind yourself often enough.
My way of reminding myself is to take the worst thing I can think of, the very worst thing I could possibly do…. and hang it out there so I can remind myself of all the reasons and all the ways I choose not to do them.
I allow those ugly horns their place in my world, in my mind, because they serve a valuable purpose — they remind me that I choose who I am, in every moment, and even when I choose poorly, it doesn’t mean I’m “bad”… it just means I’m human.
There is nothing wrong with being human. There is nothing wrong with having horns. There is nothing wrong with putting the shadowy, ugly things we’re so afraid are “terrible” or make us “bad” to work supporting us in being helpful humans in the world.
There’s a lot to love about those ugly horns, most of which deals with knowing that it would be impossible to do our best without our worst being close enough to keep us looking for how to be better.
Isn’t perception an interesting thing?