"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." I usually tack on "incompetence" or "ignorance" on there as well.
Somewhere along the line, as a very young child, I internalized this. I'm not sure how or why. But even before I had heard the actual saying, I couldn't ever bring myself to comprehend the possibility of people deliberately being mean.
Perhaps I should blame an excess of empathy... maybe my mom asked me one too many times, "How do you think that makes so and so
Or maybe I suffer from an extreme version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I would never want somebody to knowingly do or say something that would hurt my feelings, so I would never knowingly and willingly do such things to others. So I can't really rationalize how other people might be doing so -- I just can't put myself in their shoes.
There are consequences to this belief. Most people seem to be under the impression that the world is full of people who deliberately act with malice to promote their own self interest. In contrast, I see a world full of well-meaning, but truly, truly, stupid, incompetent, and ignorant
I'm really not sure which way is better.
But it takes me a long time to reach the conclusion that somebody is being deliberately cruel or malicious, and at that point, all I can do is file them in the category of extreme mental illness
. I toss them in with all the sociopaths and psychopaths and megalomaniacs of the world. The only way I can come to grips with it is to assume they're not in their right minds.
I know, in my heart, that everybody is rationalizing their actions based on what they think is right and good and virtuous. And while I might disagree with them, I don't like the idea of trying to change them. Because I wouldn't want anybody to change me
, you know, just because they thought I was wrong.
As I said, there are consequences for these philosophies.
I have a hard time putting my own interests ahead of other people's. I feel bad. How do I
really know I deserve something more than them?
And when somebody does something to me that negatively affects me, I assume it was because they didn't know any better. Or they didn't understand I wouldn't like it. Or they had a really hard decision to make, and this really was the least painful of many options. I have to trust in their benevolence. Or it would break my brain.
Some people automatically assume there's a level of dislike or hatred influencing people's decisions... I can't think that way. Because I can't make decisions that way. I treat people with kindness and respect no matter how they're treating me.
Carried to its logical conclusion, this would completely paralyze me as a person. And from time to time I think it has. There's a whole element of human interaction that I just don't get.
It makes it hard to understand, for instance, office politics. I'd never be able to be a manager, because I could never make a decision that would make my employees upset.
I feel bad applying for a job, because I might get hired over somebody who needs the job more, just because I'm a better interviewee.
I feel bad getting birthday presents because I'm certain the money people spent on me could have gone towards their debts. What right do I have to negatively influence their finances?
If somebody has a strong opinion, I go along with what they're saying even if I think they're wrong. Because if they feel that strongly about it, they'd be upset not getting to get what they want, and I usually don't care that much anyway...
And somehow I assume everybody else is thinking the same way.
Now, I know logically this can't be the case. But it's one thing to say things and quite another to truly believe them. Most people see the world through the lens of their own beliefs. So I see everybody as empathic and caring and constantly worrying about making people upset.
And when they seem to violate that mold, I assume they're just stupid, or ignorant, or incompetent. And I feel pity and sadness, but never anger or hatred. I just don't know how.