Under pressure

I watched this documentary a few weeks ago.

So they’ve got a pastor giving an interview a few years after he was caught in an affair and ousted in disgrace.

And he keeps saying things that sound good: I take full responsibility for what I did, and I made huge mistakes, and I’m focused on rebuilding trust with my family.

And he also keeps saying things like I was in an unhealthy place and There was so much pressure and Everything was getting out of control.

All of those things can be true.

But the way he’s saying the latter things — being in an unhealthy place, not taking care of himself, being under pressure, feeling out of control — he’s saying as if they mean something more than what they are.

Not like they’re excuses, but valid reasons. Cause and effect.

As if feeling stressed and strained and pressured, being mentally and emotionally taxed, is a unique condition which somehow negates responsibility, removes consequences.

As if there are no choices, only circumstances.

I think of all the people who have navigated unimaginable hardship, who have endured intense stress for months and years at a time, and who somehow remained decent to each other.

And here’s this man. He’s about my age. He sits in front of the camera describing a hardship so great that it was almost unendurable: the hardship of success.

The hardship of having many eyes upon you, expecting you to live up to your promises. The hardship of living in a major city and having access to, and money for, many resources. The hardship of having a committed partner and healthy kids. The hardship of choosing a high-pressure job with a correspondingly high salary.

Most of all, the hardship of achieving what you worked to achieve and realizing that despite your success you still feel the same underneath, but now you have to act like you don’t.

It is the hardship of creating a successful illusion. Now you must work like mad to keep it floating, to keep making it seem real.

My experiences in life certainly aren’t universal and there’s a lot I don’t know. But what I’ve noticed is that being under pressure doesn’t change who you are; it reveals what you’ve been able to hide. The pressure doesn’t create something different of you. It uncovers what was already there.

When you say, The pressure got to me as a way of excusing poor choices and bad behavior, it’s telling me something real about you. It’s telling me about your core character, what you will reveal about yourself when the capacity for posturing is gone.