There is a popular attitude that all humans are riddled with shortcomings and weaknesses that they are entirely unable to overcome. That sentiment is highly detrimental to the denizens of this world, and it’s also wrong. The very idea that people would be unable to change a bad behavior flies in the face of everything we are told is great about humans – our ability to learn, adapt and grow, to overcome challenges and create new things the world has never seen is what makes it possible for us to become better all the time. We know that we are special, and it’s because we can choose behavior that benefits us in the long run and not just what immediately feels satisfying. The amazing thing is that we can accomplish greater and longer lasting happiness through that measured behavior than can ever be achieved without it.
Traditional values in my culture tell me that since I have free will and am autonomous, my choices (be they action or inaction), and the results thereof, are all my responsibility. In my grandmother’s eyes all choices on our part are either deliberate, careless or negligent. In that world there is no room for accidents. A mistake still has fault even if the person feels remorse. The idea of an accident is that it’s no one’s fault, and frankly, that’s a bit of a logical fallacy to apply to human behavior. For the most part, we absolutely can and should be held accountable for our actions and decisions – even if the results are different than we intended. This isn’t about berating poor performance though, it’s about understanding behaviors to help change them from the inside.
My grandmother firmly believes that often, people purposefully disregard or are indifferent to the principles of courtesy and respect for others. The people she describes see themselves in those same scenarios as not having known (think “oblivious”). Or they believe they live ‘naturally’, which is my best term for following feelings without any attempt to predict consequences. They don’t see that behavior as an ongoing refusal to recognize the effect that we each have upon others, our environment, and our future. That ‘living naturally’ mindset does not acknowledge the value of taking preventative measures in life. All it does is revert to self-pleasure and self-preservation alone, forsaking morals, ethics, and altruism. It doesn’t eschew responsibility out of malice toward others though, it is more of a way to protect a fragile emotional space that needs propping up to be maintained.
Caught up in the concepts of fate and destiny, so many people believe that the course of events is unchangeable and that they personally have no impact on the world at all. This gives them a strange freedom to act as they will, believing that they either do or should have no impact, and if anyone implies otherwise, they direct the affected party to accept those bad choices based on the inevitability angle. They often use language like “mishap” and “misfortune” to describe outcomes and act like or believe that they are constantly subject to the whims of intangible forces from afar.
Human behavior is not inevitable. It takes significant cause to induce action in a person; it has to be worth their time and efforts to take action. Each person makes a choice because it provides some kind of reward, no matter how convoluted the reward’s connection to the choice. We all know how difficult it can be to get someone to do something that they don’t want to do. Any attempt by any person to say they had engaged in behavior by accident is lying to themself or others. No one goes out of their way to do anything unless something brought them to feel a desire or need to do it. As aforementioned results can vary from anticipated but that’s different. I’ve never blamed someone who was misled and truly didn’t know it either, but even that has its limitations.
I don’t always agree with my grandmother’s thinking that largely people are careless or indifferent. I think it’s an issue of misguided beliefs surrounding what it means to be mature and what the basis of independence is. Too many people see adulthood as ultimate unbridled freedom. This puffed up image of doing as we please and telling others to take our actions as immutable is not simply exercising our free will, or taking artistic license. It ends up relying heavily on the forbearance of strangers and family alike, and is a burden on those with a deeper level of maturity. It reminds me of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in so many ways.
When we’re looking at the positive we want to make a difference and/or be recognized in this world. When it comes to the negative of course we’d rather not be associated with it; we don’t want to make that impression on the world. The tendency is to cover mistakes with excuses and justifications, or lies and manipulation. This immature behaviors belies the shame people feel when we are caught by the authority figure of honesty. This demonization of the home of catharsis and closure is a travesty. The best way for everyone to move on from emotional pain is honesty – unless the perpetrator has no remorse whatsoever, which is much more rare than it’s made out to be… normally remorse is hidden behind self-preserving defenses more than it is absent.
Insecurities become evident when this behavior is seen for what it is – a poorly executed way for people to keep themselves from being hurt or wanting for anything, all at the expense of those around them. Highly insecure people have a hard time because they are ridiculously critical of themselves and therefore they already feel punished by their own guilt in ongoing cycles before any outside forces come to bear. Especially when the insecurity has whittled away any confidence in their own abilities to affect change. When these cycles are internalized they result in dysfunctional relationships with self and society. A decision made in error need not be so devastating that the victim is pulled into consoling the perpetrator over the commission of whatever misdeed they chose to undertake, but things get turned around within the dysfunctional cycles of the insecure mind.
It’s not that I don’t think we should see humans as imperfect or subject to the forces of the universe – it’s that I want people to own their part in their own choices and by extension the results of their choices. It’s that we do all play a part in the theater of life. Some of us may stand at center stage, but if the grip never shines the light there, no one sees the lead performance. In our way we all have an important role, if only to those closest to us. Sometimes that someone may be a retail clerk at an establishment we frequent, or an online gaming partner or a pet, but whoever it is we affect them with ourselves and our problems, our insecurities and dysfunctions. It’s true that none of us are perfect, but that doesn’t mean those who share our space must suffer for it.
Dealing with our own issues helps us deal with others and the world around us. We don’t have to lash out at others because we are scared to be wrong, or don’t have enough experience in a given subject. We don’t have to be so ashamed when we choose wrong or miscalculate the outcome. We can admit our human imperfection without using it as a cop out to avoid the spectre of failure. We can do our best, be proud we did so, and own our part of existence wholeheartedly. We should be able to deliver an impassioned if not flawless performance. We are the better for it when we work to gain the confidence and self respect needed to make healthy decisions in life, and so are those around us.