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When potential no longer matters

We’ve all heard the comment, “he or she has such great potential”. Sometimes the words “untapped” or maybe even “unbelievable” are thrown into the remark to add to the importance of the comment.

Stan Hall

And, not only have we heard the comments, we know so many people to whom that comment might apply. If we are truthful, the comment has probably been made about many of us at some point in our lives.

Potential is a tricky word. When it is used, it typically identifies something as a fact or a sure thing. “You can bet on it,” they might add. But, assigning such certainty of fact to potential is far from accurate. Potential simply means having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future. We have no way of knowing one way or another if that development will occur; but it potentially could. Potentially, we may wake up tomorrow and find that the Republicans and the Democrats have settled all of their differences and were last seen sitting around a bonfire on the White House lawn singing Kumbaya. I really doubt it, but potentially it could happen.

I’ve seen the word used one time after another by someone, or someone representing someone, who is trying to convince another someone in authority that the “one who is now in trouble” has untapped potential. This word should be carved in some lavish marble plaque in our nation’s courtrooms as it is used more often than the obvious words that should be predominant in that setting. You know, words like justice, impartiality, rights, and etcetera. However, when it comes to second, third, and many other chances, nothing says sought after justice like potential. It usually goes something like this.

“Your Honor, this young man comes from a good family. He has proven to be a good athlete, his grades are not great, but he has maintained a steady “D” average. He hasn’t worked or shown any interest in his community, but that is based only due to the fact that he has been busy trying to take advantage of his one opportunity to enjoy his youth. He is not a regular church attender, but his parents are. They are “great” people. He is just a young man, a free spirit…. if you will Judge, who has so much potential. The world is his oyster and he just needs another chance to reach out for that golden ring which will turn his life around”. Sound familiar?

They usually fail to mention that it is sometimes the golden ring that got them in this situation. If that golden ring which they sought happens to belong to another, then potentially they may find that all that glitters is potentially not gold after all. Potentially, that gold often tarnishes into a fluorescent orange and is typically emboldened on a jumpsuit.

It helps if the “potential” candidate will dab his eyes from time to time with a tissue supplied by his defense attorney. If one of his many tattoos says anything about “Mom” that is the one that should be highlighted based on correct positioning at the podium to give the Judge a view of it. Most often, the other tattoos are best kept beneath a sampling of fabric covering the arm(s), neck, and other parts unknown.

Luckily, somewhere in this diatribe of what this person has the potential to be, the fact of what that person actually has become will raise its ugly head. Showing the capacity to develop into something positive in the future should never erase those traits and flaws that have actually already developed in the past. Potential cannot change their history.

Potential is something that also needs to be accessed based on the actions of that person (who is now looking to his potential turn around in life). Potentially, his past actions will have destroyed the lives of many other people. They potentially may never recover from what has occurred based on no fault of their own. Potentially, this person who seeks redemption has no regret or remorse about what has occurred and is willing to say or do anything to see his new found potential ahead of him. Potentially, and hopefully, our system will be able to identify these people who only discuss potential based on an abstract and jaded view that deals more with the potential of the present rather than the potential of the future.

Potential is a pursuit that we all should encourage. We should encourage it in our children and we should apply it to everything that we do. However, at some point, our book of potential and what we might one day develop into must be closed in lieu of that book of fact and what we already are. Luckily, potential can be re-evaluated on any given day but in certain situations; potentially that day is not always this day.

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