Keeping Our Idealism In-Check

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

We have all had the experience of being around someone who is so enthused about a particular ideal of theirs that they are absolutely obnoxious to be around. They are so motivated and dedicated to this ideal that they become oblivious to reality, logic and reasoning.

The problem is that idealism, with unbridled enthusiasm, can become so engulfing that it potentially leads to the following progression:

Idealism > Propagandizing > Fanaticism > Extremism > Autocracy

Let’s take a look at the definitions of these terms so we have a common understanding of their meanings as it relates to the purpose of this post.

The tendency to represent things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values. (

To propagate or publicize (principles, dogma, etc.) by means of propaganda. (

Excessive intolerance of opposing views. (WordWeb Dictionary)

Extremism means, literally, the quality or state of being extreme or the advocacy of extreme measures or views. (Wikipedia)

The unlimited authority, power, or influence of one person in any group. (

While this progression is readily seen in religion and politics, it is also present in social movements, environmental movements, business, education and sports.

The progression from idealism to autocratic behavior usually begins with a valid, legitimate ideal or belief. But … at some point in time our idealism becomes a blinding obsession. It is at this point in time when our idealism, including the individual(s) or group supporting it, becomes so unbalanced that it has the potential to damage individual(s), our community or society if we let idealism run wild with no checks and balances.

In the end, our ideals and beliefs we have to help others collapses because we did not keep our idealism in-check. To prevent this, we must always be grounded in reality. This doesn’t mean that we cannot dream, share that dream, work to grow that dream and influence others. We just need to keep our enthusiasm, actions and expectations within self-controlled boundaries and reason to prevent radicalization. Let’s not be the reason our own ideals fade and eventually fail.

Please share your thoughts, comments and questions. Thank you!

Published by W. M. Brown

I am a retired U.S. expat living in Ecuador. I was a business owner for 32 years before retiring in 2012.

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