Of cabbages and kings

A friend of mine recently said to me that he had made some awful decisions in his life. I asked him to talk about one or two, which he did.

By the time he’d finished, I realized that in fact he hadn’t made bad decisions at all – certainly not at the time when he made the decision in the first place, whether that was last month or last year, or 20 years ago. The fact is that, AT the time, he had actually made the correct decision given the facts, the circumstances and the players involved. He couldn’t be faulted for a bad call.

When I challenged him on one of the examples, we began to realize that the situation in question had turned sour over a period of time. However, the reason it transitioned from good to bad was because the other player (in this case a wife, and a marriage) had been the one who had changed. Moreover, other people on the periphery of the situation – family and friends – had shifted position as well. They had leaned towards the wife’s thoughts and feelings and hadn’t taken an impartial look at things.

My observation was that he had not changed much at all, yet the situation had evolved by the re-positioning of the other people. In other words, everyone else changed significantly over time, while he was essentially still the same.

I call this the “chess board analogy”.

By and large the “king”, does not move from his square, but that the “queen” and the knights, and the bishops, and all the pawns, all move squares. So much so, that the king can’t clearly see where they move to, some are completely out of sight, others are obscured by other players, some are facing the opposite way, etc. Therefore, the situation – or the board if you will – is now a totally different landscape than when the game started.

The moral of the analogy is that the changes are entirely made by others. The notion that you made the wrong decision at the outset, as evidenced by the outcome in later years, is a fallacy. You may not be faultless, I concede, but if you shoulder 100% of the “blame” then you will be carrying ALL the baggage, when in fact, you only packed an overnight case.

We tend to focus on the here and now, and lose sight of the there and then. Consequently, any “bad” situation is judged in the present tense, not the past tense, and the inference is that a bad decision was deemed to have been made back then.

Sometimes it might be worthwhile to view the chessboard by comparing the end of the game to the beginning of the game, to determine who has moved, and why.

It helped my friend to get a much clearer and better perspective of his situation. My parting words were “check mate”.

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