I believe that people are inherently good.
I know this goes against CNN, the nightly news and many religions, but here’s my proof.
When we do bad things, we need to justify it. If I yell at someone, I want to explain WHY it was okay to yell at them. Even serial killers often have a reason. It’s a CRAZY reason, but it’s still a reason.
We want to say that others deserved it. And whether it’s true or not (and there’s great debate as to whether anyone DESERVES to be uncared for or yelled at or hurt, which can be heard in parenting circles all the way through our justice system), the fact that we want or need another person TO deserve it, makes me believe that we are good.
Why would we need a justification if we were inherently bad? We would just be mean and hurtful. We wouldn’t need anything more than to do it. We must have some sort of conscience or moral compass.
However, if we are inherently good, why it’s so difficult to be nice to others? Why is the cycle of mean —> justification —> mean —-> justification is so comfortable and common for all of us?
Perhaps, if we believe that we are all inherently good, if we treated all people like they were all rushing to the hospital to say good-bye to someone they loved, then we would not find ourselves having to justify our own behaviors. We wouldn’t have justifications if we were all just a little more understanding of our humanness.
And while this is helpful when someone cuts me off in traffic, it doesn’t work when someone purposefully rams his car into me. We cannot give people a pass for every behavior. People will get hurt.
And I do believe in a moral compass. A sense of lines that we do not cross. I think that we all have lines — they are right around when we start justifying our behaviors and what makes us so GOOD.
However, if we are all good and all moral, who figures out where the line is? What is a justification and how do we know when we are confusing justification with morality? There are people who could use this essay to justify banning homosexuality, which I would never support because it goes against my moral compass.
In some ways, this is why we have a justice system. Although when studies come out about darker-skinned African-Americans getting tougher sentences than lighter-skinned African-Americans, and when the Supreme Court rules that corporations are like people when it comes to political campaigns, it’s difficult to feel like justice is blind or able to fulfill this need in all areas.
We also have voices and votes and feet. And while I don’t believe that there is some inherit evil to people, I think that sometimes we stand up against actions and attitudes that are hurting others even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular.
I don’t think the rainbow flag outside of our home has endeared us to some of our neighbors. But I believe that the gay teenager walking through our neighborhood knows someone cares in a state which may be one of the last to support gay rights in all of its laws.
Do I think that the people who tell that boy he’s wrong, are evil? No. But their slurs and intimidation at school, home, and church, should not be tolerated. While others will tell me that the boy’s “lifestyle,” which should not be tolerated.
Are our moral compasses different? I think that only one of us is hurting someone. Perhaps “do no harm” is a place to begin.
I wish the world was black and white. Good and evil. It seems easier than being forced to search my heart every day for the right words and actions. To know when to stand up and when to stay seated. To try and understand people and forgive their humanness without letting others get hurt.
I love people and believe in their goodness. But I still hate what they do.
It is uncomfortable to feel both.
It is unpopular to believe both.
But it is exactly where I want to be.