The Compass Blog

Breaking Bad Faith

Matt Moore

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a serial liar. I’m frequently dishonest and evasive, inventing false realities and crafting elaborate justifications to sidestep and evade the truth. The primary victim of all this strategically plotted deception? Myself.

I lie to myself, all the time, and generally at the expense of my own freedom and happiness. As it turns out, many of us do. There’s a philosophical concept that describes this behavior: Bad Faith. Without getting in too deep with the paradoxes and tedious illustrations typical of philosophical discussions, here’s a very basic definition: Bad Faith is the habit of convincing ourselves that we don’t have the freedom to make certain choices out of fear of the consequences.

Here are some examples from my own sordid past of self-trickery:

“I can’t pull the plug on TV right now, the last season of Game of Thrones hasn’t come out yet!”
(So I will continue to watch 4 hours of “Ice Road Hoarders” every evening until I find out how Bran destroys the white walkers.)

“I can’t start a new diet right now, I’ve a got a trip coming up, and it’s impossible to stick to diets on the road.”
(So I will continue to dine exclusively on cured meats and beer until my environment is controlled enough that I can really focus on my health.)

“I can’t quit social media, that’s how so many people stay in touch with me.”
(So I will continue to spend 2-4 hours a day catching up on what people I haven’t communicated with directly in years, many of whose names I don’t even recognize, are up to.)


You get the idea. Some of these examples may even sound familiar. Why are we afraid of what will happen if we make big shifts in our daily routine? Because our current patterns, whatever they may be, are easy and safe. Why safe? Because there’s no pressure in binge-watching TV, eating poorly, or dragging myself down my Facebook feed. I can’t fail or be mediocre at any of those things. And in our increasingly curated and isolated lives, there’s no currency in mediocrity. You don’t get any Likes for taking up crochet and making a kite-shaped scarf on your first try (Trust me – I know).

Somewhere deep down, we’re asking ourselves, “What if I fail?” What if I did cut TV out of my life and started spending my evenings pursuing something that I actually enjoy, like poorly playing my guitar, writing bad poetry, crocheting ugly scarfs? As we venture out, as we dare to explore our own latent potential, to question, to learn, we stop asking ourselves “What if I fail?” and we start asking “So what if I fail?” The masterpieces of tomorrow emerge from the failures of today, so for the sake of future generations, I hope we can all get busy failing.


Winter is just around the corner, and the shorter days and cold weather provide a great opportunity to try your hand at something new or pick up an old hobby that you’ve been missing. So by the time next spring has sprung, I hope you’ll all have written an anthology of bad stories, composed albums of just-ok songs, created galleries of ugly art, and loved every minute of it. If you’re still scheming and dreaming where you’ll be spending these winter months, check out our Winter Jobs page for some inspiration!