There’s an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” But what if we’re fooling ourselves?
Think of the myriad ways we fool ourselves about little things. We look at people and only see what we expect to see; we don’t look for things that are out of character for them. It’s as if we give permission for them to hide in plain sight.
We hear what we want to hear and we block out what we don’t want to hear or we put it through a filter that allows us to have selective memory, often leaving out large chunks of what we don’t want to remember.
There’s another old saying: “There’s no fool like an old fool.” But could it also be a way of trying to reclaim a missing part of one’s youth? Since this usually refers to romantic relationships, might it not be a way of trying to see ourselves the way we used to be when we were young and desirable instead of the way we are now, inhabiting bodies that are old and have seen better days?
Take a look at the biases we have. Do they not influence the innumerable ways we fool ourselves? I speak in terms of bias as a preference, not in the pejorative way it is often used to denote someone who is prejudiced.
We have political biases and when one of our favorite politicians gets caught doing something loathsome, it’s almost as though it were a personal affront. We feel as though we were stupid enough to believe the lies he told us to get elected.
On a good day, politicians have often admitted they didn’t read the bills they voted on. And yet, we aren’t outraged sufficiently to do something about it. Why can’t we make them limit the number of bills they vote on or give them a test to see how much they know?
That’s not realistic because even if they had all the time in the world they would find other things to fill those hours. So, not only do politicians fool us repeatedly, but we continue to allow ourselves to be fooled.
The reality is that most of the time people can’t fool us unless we give them tacit permission to fool us. This brings us back to: Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.