What Rationalizing Is and Isn’t

It’s not rationalizing when you have rational facts to back up your conclusion — and when you haven’t deliberately left any facts out. I sometimes hear people say, “I have to rationalize my decision.” They say it as if this is a good thing. If they mean to say that they want to make sure they have facts and logic to back up their decision, this IS a good thing–but should not be called rationalizing. If they mean to say that they’re distorting facts, or leaving out relevant ones, to pseudo-justify a conclusion … well, this would be nothing more than a cynical break with reality. Rationalizing isn’t a good thing. It’s not the same as an innocent mistake, either. An innocent mistake is when you sincerely try to find all the reasons to do a particular thing, and conclude it’s right–and then later realize you didn’t know of a crucial factor, or sincerely didn’t think of something that would have led you to a different decision. Mistakes can be damaging to your life, but you recover from them as best you can. Rationalization is worse. You bruise your mind, not just your situation.