Your actions always define you

The notion that you are not defined by your actions is absurd and goes against the natural instinct that we judge people by their character. Everything you do or associate with reflects on your character in some way or another. For example, if you wear white socks every day of your life, and wear different color socks for one day, you are no longer defined as a person that only wears white socks. You are now a person that wears white socks, except for one occasion.

Socks are not a very interesting example, but what about cheating on a test? If you have ever cheated on a test, you will never be someone who hasn’t cheated on a test. The best you can be is someone who no longer cheats on tests. If you cheat once, are you the worst person in the world? Probably not. But it would be false to state you are not a cheater.

This translates to an interesting debate about convicts. Upon release from prison, is the person still a criminal? In that moment, no, they are not committing a crime. At some point though, had that person committed a criminal act? Yes. So are they a criminal? By definition, yes. So how should we treat them? Who are any of us to decide how another human being is treated? And who are we to judge them? We have no insight into one’s mind and intentions beyond what they verbalize—even that can be distorted while passing from thought to speech, not to mention actively tampered with.

The person you can trust the most is yourself, who should be the only person you have control over. If you work at a company, your actions reflect on that company. You can change jobs, and as a result you will begin to reflect on another company. You cannot do this with yourself though. Every action you make contributes to the greater sum of actions you have taken before. Some are noteworthy, some are negligible. Some we deem positive, some we deem negative. But anything you have done is inescapable. All you can do is your best going forward.

Before taking action, I try to think, “Will this positively contribute to my character, and is this something I want to have inescapably done?” During times where I can keep these questions at the front of my mind, things go well. However, when that slips from conscious thought, and instead what is immediately fun or exciting takes over, things do not necessarily go as well.

If everyone acts to be their best self, as overused as that is, we’ll all be fine.