Kicking the Can: Conquering Ignorance and Denial

Kicking the Can: Conquering Ignorance and Denial

Face it, there are just some things that we don’t like to do. We all have those irritating things that incessantly demand our attention. Every one of us has a collection of loathsome demands that keep throwing themselves in front of us. Our lives are chock full of repetitive tasks, missed agenda items, overdue obligations, lapsed deadlines, and overlooked commitments that constantly harass us. We all have those irritating things that are irritating because we know that they need to be done, and we know that we should have gotten them done a long time ago, and we know that we’d feel a whole lot better if we had gotten them done. But we don’t want to. And so all of these various things have become something of a noxious stench emanating from the pages of our calendars. And so we find ourselves attempting to pencil those things out and off of our calendars. We all have things that we just don’t like to do, so we kick the can down the road.


Then there are the messes that we’ve made. There’s the colossal blunders, the erroneous missteps, and the self-centered choices that have turned on us. Then there’s the little messes that have grown into mammoth messes because we never took care of the little messes when we should have. There were gambles that we took that were prompted more by a narcissistic headiness than a thoughtful deliberation. There were risks that we embraced out of some childish cavalier notion rather than a measured wisdom. We have some bad things that we caused that we just don’t like to deal with, so we kick them down the road as well.


Versions of Kicking the Can


Yet, things don’t go away just because we want them to. Problems don’t get solved just because we’re annoyed with them. Life is not so enchanted that things simply just dissipate all by themselves, or mystically resolve themselves because life feels bad for us. ‘Avoidance’ is not some sort of practiced slight-of-hand where the things that we’re avoiding magically vanish under the silken cloak of avoidance. ‘Denial’ is not some ingenious, multi-purpose tool that fixes whatever problem is that we’re in denial of, somehow busily working away behind the scenes while we’re sitting in denial of the problem. And whatever ‘ignoring’ is, it’s not powerful enough to somehow relegate the thing that we’re ignoring to the very oblivion that we hope our ignoring will relegate it to. We all have things that we just don’t like to do, so we kick the can down the road.


Kicking the Can Implies Acceptance of the Can


In kicking the can, it’s not that we’re in denial of the issue, or the commitment, or the obligation, or the deadline that we’re working so hard to avoid, or the self-made mess that we want to forget about. We’ve come to accept whatever it is that we’re kicking down the road, and we’ve embraced the fact that it’s a part of our lives and it’s likely here to stay as much as we hate that. We’ve long given up hope that it’s going to go away, or supernaturally fix itself, or be fixed by someone else. Kicking the can down the road implies that we’re accepted the galling reality that whatever it is that we’ve avoiding, it’s something that’s not going to go away; at least on its own. So given that it’s not going to go away, we decide to push it away by kicking it down the road.


Kicking the Can Is an Action Based on a Decision


Kicking the can down the road is an action. It represents the decision that we’ve made about whatever it is that we’re avoiding. It’s the choice we’ve made to deal with this thing by not dealing with it. It’s a conscious decision to placate responsibility, postpone the inevitable, deny our poor choices, pay a legitimate obligation forward yet again, and momentarily pretend that all is good so as to avoid any discomfort around that fact that all is not good. There’s nothing inherently good or redeeming about kicking the can down the road. In doing so, we’re doing nothing more than exhibiting cowardice and nothing less than throwing off responsibility.


Kicking the Can to Pawn It Off


Sometimes kicking the can down the road is done out of some pathetic hope that somebody else is going to pick it up and take care of it for us. Maybe someone else will step in or step up and solve this. Maybe if we kick it down the road long enough and hard enough somebody else is going to get tired of watching us do it, or feel bad enough for us that they’ll take care of it. Maybe we’re actually kicking the can in the direction of somebody as a means of baiting them a bit and hoping they’ll get rid of this for us. Whatever the case, maybe someone will have mercy on us, walk up to the can, pick it up, and dispense of it for us.


Kicking The Can is Often Blaming the Can on Someone Else


Sometimes kicking the can is designed to kick it so far away from us that we no longer look like we’re connected to the can. If we can ignore the issue long enough and distance ourselves from it far enough, we can often make it look like we really have nothing to do with it at all. But more than that, it’s often a way to distance the issue or the mistake or the blunder so far from us that it actually looks as if it belongs to someone else. Maybe we can ignore the issue long enough and kick it so far away from us that it appears as if it’s closer to somebody else than it is to us. If we can pull that off, we can actually make the issue look like it belongs to the person that we’ve kicked it over to. And too often once we’ve done that, we not only make the claim that it’s theirs, but we go so far as to say that it was never ours in the first place. Suddenly, kicking the can down the road becomes an act of kicking it over onto someone else’s road.


Kicking the Can Will Kick Our Can


There are implications for kicking the can down the road. Sometimes those implications are serious beyond whatever the issue was in the first place. Sometimes they’re outright devastating. The reality of life is such that avoiding most things means that those things will become worse in the avoiding, not better. If we’re avoiding something in the first place it’s probably because it’s pretty bad to begin with, otherwise we wouldn’t be working so hard to avoid it. And the worse something is, the worse it’s going to get if we avoid it. We add to the problem each time with avoid the problem. So kicking the proverbial can down the road only increases in the size of the can. And when that happens there will come a time when it’s too big to kick any longer.


What’s Your Can?


We all have our cans. Some are small and some are anything but small. But we all have them and it would be in our best interest to be honest about them. It’s time to identify our cans, as grueling and distasteful as that might be. Once we’ve done that, it’s time to quite the kicking and start the resolving. The road to resolution might be a rough one that demands much of us, but it will not demand as much of us as it will if we keep on kicking the can. It’s about being accountable. It’s about being a person of integrity and intention. It’s about stepping up to whatever our cans might be, purposefully reaching down, picking up the lot of them and ridding our lives of each one. A life with no cans to kick is a life of un-littered roads that grant us unobstructed passage. And it would seem that a litter free road would be a rather nice one to travel. It might be wise to consider adopting a can free life and giving up a kicking career.



© 2014 Craig Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor


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