Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

I cannot, I may not, I don’t want to

In Dutch we have a saying: “Kan Niet is een broertje van Mag Niet en ligt op het kerkhof naast Wil Niet” (eg, Ensie). This translates like: ‘I cannot’ is the brother of ‘I may not’ and lies in the graveyard next to ‘I don’t want to’. All three excuses are considered platitudes in both languages. An obvious reply would be: just do it!

We often say that we cannot do something, while we actually mean that we don’t want to do it. In business, I noticed that when Polish managers claim that something is not allowed (eg, by tax law), they actually mean that they don’t want to do it. They use the law as an excuse and assume we will not verify.

Honesty would require saying that you don’t want to do something. The balance of power in any relationship (eg, employee-employer, child-parent, student-teacher) makes expressing honesty difficult. Honesty may result in punishment (eg, dismissal) and we want to avoid that (at nearly all cost).

Hence, we invent excuses (eg, cannot, may not) that are basically ‘white lies‘. A problem arises when we lie to ourselves in order to avoid the bitter truth about someone or something. Example: “I cannot do that to her/him!” Loving someone is the reason why we don’t want to do that to her/him.

I prefer to say the truth and even at my own expense. I don’t believe in ‘gentle healers’. I believe that tough love does work. I don’t need to be popular. I just want respect. Also see my blogs on Needs-Wants-Beliefs and respect.

Any relationship (eg, employee-employer, child-parent, student-teacher, citizen-government) requires boundaries. Lack of boundaries results in a lack of respect. Without respect, any relationship will deteriorate.

Boundaries (eg, speed limits) conflict with our notion of freedom and will thus always be tested (eg, by children, citizens, employees, students). Given our quest for freedom, we need and want to know if non-adherence to boundaries will cause penalties or punishment.

Hence, lots of boundaries, without monitoring their adherence, will result in a permissive or laissez-faire society. In my view, my country is an example.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.” A quote from The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) by Brené Brown (b. 1965), an American professor, lecturer, and author.

Boundaries (2019) by Lena
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.

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