Ever say the phrase, “I try to see the good in other people?” I hear it all the time from the people that reach out to me, particularly from people who are in abusive situations. It’s a romanticized sentiment that is not really applicable in the real world. Not all people are good. Some people only have a sliver of good in an ocean of bad. Others are a majority good but have a sliver of bad that is so negative that it can’t be overlooked. There are others simply project being good to the world and do awful things behind closed doors. And there are plenty of people who are just entirely apathetic to it all.
The people that announce “I try to see the good in other people” are essentially announcing to the world that they are an easy target. In my experience, these individuals will cling to the fragments of good that they see in another person, like an abusive partner, to further convince themselves that this person that they love is a good person and thus deserving of their love. And it’s not limited to romance. It’s parents, siblings, children, or really any interpersonal dynamic.
They hold onto this idea that if they are good, loving, and compassionate to this person, that the person will notice it, respect it, and return love. I don’t believe respect and love work that way. There are different types and levels of both. The respect you have for yourself is different from the respect you have for an enemy is different from the respect you have for a loved one. And love is the same way. There are different levels, types, and strengths of love.
I never look for the good in anyone. I look for their humanity and what makes them who they are. In doing so, it doesn’t really surprise me when someone does something good or bad. There seems to be a common belief that good and bad are absolutes; but I’ve known quite a few people who have done bad things because they felt they had no other choice. Those decisions can be driven by circumstances like mental illness or environment. Actions that are good can certainly have bad elements to them and vice versa.
As someone who is High-Functioning Autistic and tends to see things in black and white, this was a challenging thing to identify and accept. My brain just doesn’t do shades of gray very well. But that’s life, isn’t it? It’s all just different shades of gray. The color of gray you interpret a situation as is dictated by your emotions, perception, and life experiences. What’s good and bad to me may not necessarily be good or bad to you. That’s totally fine.
Instead of good or bad, it’s more helpful to look at the destructiveness, motivation, and that person’s response to their actions. We, the mentally ill, can do some pretty awful things to ourselves and other people while we are unwell. I understand that because I’ve lived that life. As a result, I’ve been able to forgive some pretty serious unwell actions out of others because I could see they were trying their hardest to rectify the situation and change it.
But then you have the people who simply do not care how their actions affect you and your life. They use kindness and compassion as leverage and a weapon against the people that care about them. Well, I see no reason to be a victim to those people. If they can’t understand or don’t care how damaging their actions are, then why should anyone suffer along with them?
Maybe they will see the error of their ways in the future or maybe they won’t. Either way, will you still be healthy and well when that time comes? Or will the pain, chaos, and misery destroy you in the process? Compassion and understanding are limited resources and will dry up sooner or later. I’ve watched that destruction happen numerous times. You have to be the one that ensures it doesn’t happen to you. No one else can do it for you.
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