What Does Your Behavior Say About Who You Are?

Captain America The First AvengerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Does our behavior at the worst of times say as much about us as our behavior at the best of times?

At the start of Captain America, Steve Rogers is a ninety-pound asthmatic who’s been turned away from serving in the US military five times, despite their need for soldiers to fight the Nazis.

No one can understand what Dr. Erskine is thinking when he invites Steve to be part of the group of men in the running to become the first in a new generation of “super soldiers” enhanced by the serum Dr. Erskine created. Steve can’t even keep up in any of the exercises or drills they’re put through.

With all the great soldiers in the group, Steve doesn’t understand why he’s the one chosen.

“The serum amplifies everything that is inside,” Dr. Erskine explains. “So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen.”

Erskine chose Steve because he stood up to bullies, he thought outside the box, and he was willing to sacrifice himself for others. The serum would magnify the good qualities inside Steve, as well as making him physically stronger. If Erskine had chosen the soldier who seemed the obvious choice, the bullying tendencies the man usually controlled would have been intensified.

The rough patches, long days, aches, and disappointments in our lives act like that serum. It can bring out the best in us, but it can also bring out the worst.

When I’m impatient after a long day, or when I’m grumpy because my back hurts, or I’m selfish because I’ve been working for 10 hours straight and I just want to be left alone, I like to think that’s not who I really am. I can easily blame the circumstances. They caused my bad behavior, almost as if they were injected into me from the outside. It wasn’t my fault.

But the truth is, those tendencies must have been there, in me, all along. My circumstances, no matter how sad or frustrating, didn’t create anything.

And what scares me is the thought that perhaps it’s only in those times when we’re tired, hungry, frightened, or stressed when our true selves show up. Our defenses are down, and the unpleasant circumstances serve to magnify what’s at our core and has been there all along.

Both good and bad.

If those qualities are always there, though, it means if we’re aware of our bad qualities, we can work against them when the times are happy. We can cultivate their opposites so that maybe, just maybe, the next time we face the serums of life, what comes out will be better than the time before.

When do you think our true selves show themselves best? When things are good or when things are bad?

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