“He’s such a jerk. He had a new girlfriend within a month of breaking up with my friend.”
“OMG. Clearly she has no morals.”
“I can’t believe someone would throw a fit like that. She’s crazy!”
Admit it. You’ve made a similar statement at some point in your life, perhaps even recently. I don’t have to look too far back in my own memory to stumble upon a few similarly disparaging comments. In making these statements, I felt justified in my conclusions about someone’s character based on their actions. Sadly, we often find a certain satisfaction – consciously or subconsciously – in pointing out, reveling in, or discussing others’ mistakes or offenses. If this was not the case, we would not have so many disreputable periodicals available for our perusal in the check-out line at the grocery store.
My question is this: How often do you define others by their worst behavior? I know I’ve done it and I’m certain it’s been done to me. Should we chalk it up to human nature and move on, or should we change the way we respond?
On a blog I follow, MckMama recently explored the issue of defining others by their worst behavior. In the midst of personal pain that society would say easily warrants a hurled insult or twenty, she made a decision to abstain from defining her wrongdoer by his recent hurtful behavior. In her case, the wrongdoer is her husband who abruptly left the family a month ago (mom and 5 kids) and hasn’t spoken to any of them since. She is angry and heartbroken, and she desperately wants to lash out at him and about him. She has thousands of virtual friends who wouldn’t at all blame her , as well as the perfect medium to try him for his crimes. No one can argue that leaving the family was an honorable thing to do. However, MckMama has decided that her pain is no worse than his, even though she doesn’t fully understand the source of the pain or the reason behind these actions. She believes it is her responsibility to preserve her husband’s honor and character during this difficult time, certainly until they can put aside the hurt and get to the bottom of their issues. While he appears to be acting irresponsibly, he is also the same man she married and deserves more than being labeled, judged, and hated.
My own husband recently learned what it’s like to be defined by behavior he doesn’t even remember. Continue reading Do People Make Mistakes or Do Mistakes Make People?