What do unicorns, the tooth fairy, and inherently bad people all have in common?
None of them exist.
I will only be discussing the third of these items here, but perhaps a unicorn edition will come later. I was prompted to write this based on some recent events in my life, which would lead some to believe there are bad people. I have been trying to help a boy in my grade, who has historically been the biggest asshole to everyone I know. He challenges teachers personally, attacks people he deems stupider than himself, and goes out of his way to state his brutally honest and rude opinions. All he cares about is beating others and making money. He is aggressive, dominating, mean, cruel, and supposedly beyond help.
So, me being my altruistically curious self, I sought out to help this kid. I discussed with him physics and math, subjects he immerses himself deeply in in his free time. I listened to his thoughts and let him rub it in my face if I was wrong. In short, I have attempted to be the kindest person he has ever met, no matter how he treats me.
A few days ago, I began to challenge his nature. I told him that I firmly believe people are only mean when they themselves are insecure and have been wronged in the past; that no secure and loved person goes out of their way to make others feel bad about themselves. Cruelty is a coping mechanism, and I asserted that he has his share of insecurities that drive him to be the way he is. I told him I wanted to help him through it.
Boy, did he go off on me. He yelled, saying I knew nothing, I couldn’t psychoanalyze him, I was trying to be better than him and show him I was superior, but I never would be. I was a liar, without a degree, who had no business trying to act like I knew something about anything about the nature of people. (I do not pretend to know everything, of course, but I have read many books and articles on the subject, so I consider myself a tiny bit qualified).
I still do not believe he is a bad person, although I am not sure if I can help him. I know that he only called me out for trying to play God because he feels threatened by me. He believes, at the core of his being, that being the most successful person in the room is the meaning of life. I’m sure it’s been drilled into him since childhood, as he comes from an affluent but cold family, and it’s all he knows. He cannot see me as kind because to him, I am only acting for my own benefit in order to achieve a higher social status among our peers.
This brings me to my point, that there are no bad kids on this planet. Sure, there are mean kids, and cruel kids, and kids who don’t give a crap about anything. There are kids who have committed awful atrocities who deserve jail time for their actions to learn they have wronged.
But these kids aren’t bad, in the came-from-the-Devil sense. They are simply tortured souls, scarred beyond belief. When I see someone being overtly unkind, I do not pity the victim so much as I pity the perpetrator. No one who feels loved attempts to make another feel unloved. No one who is beautiful tells another person they are ugly. No one who has been kind to their whole life is unkind to others.
People simply don’t work like that; we want to be good. We all want to achieve happiness and internal peace and be loved and appreciated. The issue stems from situations in which people are constantly denied love and attention, from themselves and others. If I have never been loved, then how do others receive love? What did I do wrong to not deserve love? People lose hope and their own capacity for human emotion. They become emotionally and spiritually crippled, stunted, withered. Cruelty and violence are simply coping mechanisms. People do not innately choose to be bad; evil is a reaction to adverse circumstances. There is no circumstance that I am aware of in which a completely secure, loved, happy individual turns to brutality.
Next time someone is less than kind to you, do not take it personally, and do not assume them to be the spawn of the Devil. Whatever they say or do to you, it is not because they hate you; it is because they hate themselves or their lives, and they are calling our for help in the only way they know how. They are trying to escape their tortured life, and not successfully. The only thing to do is be kind back, no matter how much you are hurt from their actions. Perhaps you could show them their first dose of human kindness in their life. It may not change them all at once, but it will surely come as a surprise.
The only reason another human being turns bad is because life turned on them first. They are the victims of their own cruelty, unable to escape the cycle. They are the ones who need the most love and attention and kindness in their lives, even though it may not seem they deserve it.
You don’t have to love everyone who is mean to you, but just remember: they are suffering, too.