How Can People Be So Mean?

Every day, I hear people say things like “That guy is just an ass!”, or “She’s such a bitch!” I have to admit, when I get frustrated with someone’s bad behaviour, I partake in this as well. We just write people off as being bad people.

But if you were to walk into the nursery at a hospital, and look at all the babies, could you pick out which ones were bad people?

I can’t look down at an innocent baby, and see any evil in them. I simply can’t believe that some people are born bad.

This hit me in a new way when I attended a conference recently on Aboriginal Mental Health. The presenter was talking about the horrible things that the colonizers did to people. It’s scary to me to think how it’s possible for people to be so cruel to other people. How does this happen?

The presenter talked about how the only way people can participate in such acts is if they have experienced trauma themselves. That’s what happens between that time that someone who started out as an innocent baby starts to behave in such a hateful way towards others.

I sat in amazement as I listened to him talk. This man had every right to feel bitter and angry about the people whose actions had resulted in him having to face overwhelming challenges in his life. But, instead, he was filled with compassion. He wondered what must have happened to those people to make them shut off their emotions and lose their humanity.

It’s humbling to think of how he can do this, when I can call someone a horrible name for being rude to me on the phone, or for not following through on a commitment that they made to me. These things hardly have any real impact on my life. Yet, I can lose sight of the fact that everything people do, they do for a reason.

Instead of calling someone down when they behave badly, perhaps I should step back and remember that I don’t know their whole story. Bad behaviour comes from unmet needs, not from someone being a bad person.

If this man can show understanding to people who tried to wipe out his entire culture, perhaps I can find some compassion for the people that frustrate me in my day to day life.

Can you?

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One thought on “How Can People Be So Mean?

  1. Barb Powell says:

    Dietrich BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer > Quotes

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes (showing 1-30 of 469)
    “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

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