Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Do people who are no good realize they're being bad?

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Do people who are no good realize they're being bad?

Q: Here's something that bothers me to no end. I accept (reluctantly) that some people are just no good. How do these mean, lying, no-good, manipulative thieves see themselves? Do they know they are bad or what they are doing is bad? Do they have an inner narrative that makes them/it good somehow?

I'm not just being philosophical here. I have a very hard time believing the worst of people. I make excuses for them. Someone at work was writing crude messages on whiteboards and changing people's computer file names to (vulgar words), and I was too lenient with her. I rationalized it by thinking maybe she thought it was funny.

If I could have believed she was a twisted person (which later turned out to be true), I would have taken harsher measures that might have stopped her from going to medical school. I actually shudder at the thought of her being a doctor one day.

Anonymous

Carolyn: I think we all have internal PR shops that spin our stories to our advantage. Some won't really need that justification because their childhoods taught them dog-eat-dog ethics. Others are torn up by their failings but can't let go of whatever pleasure jolt they get from misbehaving.

And don't rule out the psychopaths. The numbers are squishy — experts estimate 1 percent of the general population (and 99 percent of the people who use the breakdown lane when a highway is backed up, according to me) — but I assume you've encountered some. A psychopath can be charming and even seem normal, through imitation of normal behavior, but underneath the image is someone who feels neither empathy nor remorse. There's nothing to say they can't have office jobs, medical degrees, families, pool club memberships.

No one wants to assume the worst of everyone. Instead, reduce your exposure to harmful people by being courteous, kind and reserved, and by training yourself out of believing anything about anyone until you have enough evidence to support a belief. Mary Ellen O'Toole's Dangerous Instincts has a lot to say on this. She was an FBI profiler for years. Worth a read.

Anonymous 2: Another way to think about "bad" people is that they're simply unable or unwilling to own their dark side. Every person on Earth has a dark side — you have one, I have one, Mother Teresa had one. Each of us also has a light side. Only by knowing/making peace with the dark side of the self can we have the most control over it. And even then, the best of us struggle (a difficult/potentially impossible process in the case of personality disorders and mental illness).

You don't have to make excuses for people who do terrible things. But by allowing yourself to know your own dark side, you gain wisdom, which is the best protection from the dark sides of others.

Carolyn: The moment when you realize, "Wow, I did this bad thing, on purpose, and I've always regarded those who did that as bad people," isn't the kind of thing you put on your calendar to celebrate, but it's more useful than pretty much any of the milestones for which we eat cake. Thanks for the reminder.

Comments

Tell Me About It: Can she trust her new beau not to cheat?

Q: Is it really true that "once a cheater always a cheater," even when the cheater didn’t cheat on you?A few years ago, I left my husband after I found out he was a serial cheater. We are now divorced. I have been seeing someone new, and he seems lik...
Published: 05/22/18
Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

No matter what Cress Williams does the rest of his acting career, he’ll always be remembered as the first to play Black Lightning.The 47-year-old actor with roles on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night Lights is now that face of a DC comics franchise...
Published: 05/22/18

Tell Me About It: She has little sympathy for troubled sister

She has little sympathy for troubled sister"target="_blank">She has little sympathy for troubled sisterQ: My mom died when I was 10 and my sister, "Abby," was 6. My dad did the best he could but life was hard. I tried to make it up to him by helping...
Published: 05/22/18
Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Well, you did it millennials. As of this month, every sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom now serves alcohol. It was a big deal back in 2012 when the world’s most visited theme park broke with Uncle Walt’s mandate to keep alcohol ou...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18

Tell Me About It: Divorce is only option with abusive wife

Divorce is only option with abusive wife"target="_blank">Divorce is only option with abusive wifeQ: My wife and I have what looks on paper like a great relationship. My problem is I hate the way my wife treats me.I say something she disagrees with, ...
Published: 05/21/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of May 21-27.

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of May 21-27.

Kendrick Lamar: ThePulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop powerhouse leads The Championship Tour on Tuesday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, with fellow hit makers including SZA and Schoolboy Q. $35-$125. amphitheatretampa.com. Tampa Ba...
Published: 05/18/18
Updated: 05/20/18

Tell Me About It: The kids are welcome, but not the bedbugs

Q: My brother and his estranged wife have three children. I love all of them. They live out of state and send the kids to us for summers. There have always been hygiene issues, like not washing after wet beds, leaving faint urine smells on the kids.T...
Published: 05/17/18
Plan your weekend May 18-20: Royal wedding watch parties, David Koechner, Fiesta Maxima, half off Dali admission

Plan your weekend May 18-20: Royal wedding watch parties, David Koechner, Fiesta Maxima, half off Dali admission

What's happening this weekend in Tampa Bay.
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
SeaWorld joins Busch Gardens in offering free beer this summer

SeaWorld joins Busch Gardens in offering free beer this summer

SeaWorld is joining its sister park, Busch Gardens, in offering free cups of beer this summer. Guests 21 and up can receive up to two complimentary 7-ounce beers per visit at Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen Patio in the park starting Friday through Sept. 2. T...
Published: 05/16/18
What’s in theaters: ‘Deadpool 2,’ ‘Book Club,’ a Pope Francis documentary and STEM movies

What’s in theaters: ‘Deadpool 2,’ ‘Book Club,’ a Pope Francis documentary and STEM movies

CinemaSTEM: Best in ShowTampa Theatre is making science, technology, engineering and math the star of its new CinemaSTEM movie series. The historic movie house will pair popular films with experts talking about some of the science that pops up in the...
Published: 05/16/18