Sunday’s Wisdom #161: “Almost”

Almost carries no weight. Especially in matters of the heart.”
– The Ghost of Christmas Past, A Christmas Carol
1984, starring George C. Scott

Hey, look! Two Christmas Carol quotes in a row! Heh, one might start to think that I like this movie!

In all seriousness, this is a quote that has stuck with me over the years.

During Scrooge’s tour of his past, he’s come to the part where Belle left him, walked away from him and his growing greed, which robbed her of love. Good on her for leaving, I say, she went and made a happier life for herself, one filled to the brim with love and family. But as Scrooge observes this pivotal moment, he comments that he almost went after her. To which the Ghost responds with the above words, which ring with truth.

We go through life making decisions every day, some of them large, most of them small. There are things we almost do, and almost say, but for whatever reason, we don’t. We see someone begging on the street, and we almost give them something. We see a friend in pain and we almost sit with them. We see our child has a musical program at school and we almost go and see them. We see someone beautiful and available, standing alone, and we almost go talk to them. We see someone talking badly about a friend, perhaps in gossip, and we almost stand up for them. We almost say no to peer pressure. We almost break that crippling addiction. We almost apologize for something terrible we did. We almost succeed. But we don’t.

The good things we almost did count for nothing, in the end, because we did not actually do them.

Virtue, kindness, freedom, loyalty, love, these are words of action, of deeds actually done, of words actually spoken.

We are what we do, not what we almost do.

It works both ways, thankfully. When we almost give in to peer pressure and try that drink or drug for the first time; when we almost say something mean and spiteful; when we almost hurt someone; when we almost fail, we are still succeeding.

It’s amazing to me how we often guilt-trip ourselves over what we almost did, completely forgetting that we didn’t actually do it. In that regard, we could afford to cut ourselves some slack. We are what we choose, not just what we feel. Men and women of character are such because they choose to be so, not because they somehow magically lack the same selfish impulses as the rest of us.

You want to be a good person? Go and do it, without any “almost” involved. 😉

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