Call me Pollyanna, but I truly believe people are, at the core, good. Yeah, yeah, there are the psychotically evil and the sociopaths. You bet. But they have wires crossed somewhere in their brains.
In fact, I’m not sure ‘pure’ sociopaths exist. Different levels of them, sure. My psychiatrist brother tells a story in Five Keys for Understanding Men about a criminal who was sent to him to treat. The man was so violent (he’d attacked previous therapists, almost killing one) that he was flown in, constrained in a strait jacket.
His treatment did not go terribly well, as you can imagine. Yet, glimmers of progress lit the way, here and there.
One night he escaped the hospital. Of course, terror reigned there. He had already tried to kill other therapists. Who would be his target?
Himself. He killed himself. So, some shred of conscience did exist. Again, even such a seemingly evil man wasn’t ‘pure’ for sociopathy.
I often edit novels (link) where the folks are all-good or all-bad. And, those are quite cardboard, shallow, unmemorable. Because people just aren’t like that. I know, I know—you can give me lists of awful folks, and we see them every day. But even the worst of them have some redeeming qualities. And even the best have negative traits and foibles. As Elisabeth Kubler Ross says, “There’s a little bit of Hitler in all of us.”
Because the thing is, to create, truly create characters out of thin air, you have to love them. Even Dr. Frankenstein loved his monster. You have to care, in order to create real human beings, as opposed to names on the page.
You have to find the ‘good’ thing about even your villain. And, it’s there. The corollary to Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s sentiment is surely true as well: There’s a speck of God in all of us too.
Because by seeing that ‘good’ thing about someone seemingly evil, paradoxically makes the heinous act all the more awful to bear. You saw the good—it was there. How could this person then go do that?
Ah, the state of being human. Yep, we all sin. The definition of which from the ancient Hebrew meant: To miss the mark. Yep, we all do that. And if the conscience is fully formed and not damaged (see Five Keys! LOL), guilt arises. The ‘good’ kind of guilt, causing you to make amends if needed, but mainly to do it differently next time.
But we all do good in this world as well. Have you seen where inmates are training service dogs now? How cool is that?
By focusing on the good, that’s what expands. So for me and my household, I choose to see the good in you.
How do you find the good in people?