Friday, February 1, 2013

A Better Man

There is another universe, one in which a man I once knew is about to redeem himself.

At this moment, the Jeff in the other universe is waking up, and realizing he has been wrong. That his wife asked for a divorce, not because she was demanding and selfish, but because he had checked out on her, become distant and disrespectful, and that she really had given him a chance to fix things before it was too late. That he has been giving his son the overwhelming message, “do as I say, not do as I do.” That he did not, in fact, deserve a higher raise, that his work was mediocre at best and he could do better. The list goes on. The Jeff in that world is facing up to it.

He’s not a hero. He’s not going to go to his boss and tell him the last report he did was flawed. He’s not going to sit down with his ex-wife and tell her she was right about everything. But he’ll be kinder when he next speaks to her, and he’ll work harder to get the next report done right. He'll begin to lead by example. His son is eighteen now, and maybe not even he will notice, but Jeff is about to become a changed man.

There are other worlds, other Jeffs, worse than the one I knew and certainly much worse than the one I have just described. There are better Jeffs, as well. But this one is important because this is the man that, on the surface, Jeff claims he is, and deep down knows he should be. That version of Jeff is important because that is the standard against which he will ultimately be judged.

God, it turns out, does not need us to be perfect, or even to be good. God merely asks that we live in accordance with our values. We will suffer not for our failures, but for decrying them as such. And a man who learns from every horrible mistake will be saved, while a man who pretends he is always in the right — he didn’t mean it, it wasn’t his fault, that didn’t count, he’s different, misunderstood, the exception to the rule — will find each excuse as a mark on his soul.

In this world, when Jeff’s son calls him out on his hypocrisy, Jeff thinks he’s in hell. But he isn’t. Not yet.

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