What’s Wrong In The Light

“What’s wrong in the light is wrong in the dark.”

He was a little on the overweight side, but always wore perfectly tailored suits that hid it. He was professional and soft-spoken in meetings, had a ready smile for everybody, and would always take a minute for somebody who had a problem or needed advice. I can remember being that person, still new at the company, standing in his office while he listened to me asking questions about contracts, and rules, and company organization. Behind his desk, as he listened, were various 8X10 photos of his wife and two children: she was beautiful, with long curly hair she’d passed on to their children, twins, a boy and a girl, who appeared to be about twelve.

Not long after, I heard in passing from a woman I worked with, who had won the company pairs golf tournament two years in a row playing with him, that she wouldn’t play with him anymore.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because he constantly hits on me,” she said, blandly. “Maybe it’s trying to compensate or something for being overweight.”

“Really? That surprises me. I’ve never seen him do anything like that.”

“Why would you?” she asked, laughing. “He doesn’t do it while people are looking.”

It turned out, it was a pattern. He hit on virtually every woman he met, at work or outside. And some took him up on his offers. At any given point of time I knew him, he had at least one mistress, it turned out. He got fired from work once the pattern as it relates to work (and some set of details I never knew) were uncovered.

His wife left him.

We (as a society, or family) set up punishments to discourage people from wrongdoing, as fear of the punishment is supposed to serve as a deterrent.

However, even the smallest children figure it out: we don’t get punished for wrongdoing, we get punished when we are caught wrongdoing.

So, many people learn a pattern of behavior that varies wildly based on whether or not they think anybody is looking.

Anonymity is like alcohol: it feels good, but too much of it is not your friend. There are expressions in many languages for the type of courage people get from intoxication: similarly, terms have sprung into use in recent years describing the faux-courage of people hiding behind Internet anonymity.

However, with anonymity, it’s not impaired judgment, but absence of fear of retribution that is the culprit.

Being in a crowd can induce the same feeling of anonymity: mobs feed off of this energy. When it feels like no one can see you, anything feels okay.

But what’s wrong in the light is wrong in the dark.

How critical the talisman
Of that regard we keep
For what is right and good and true:
What’s beautiful and deep –

But all too often, we let go.
It’s more than slips, or botching:
The things we do when we don’t think
That anybody’s


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