“Every person has their secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a person cold [or bad] when really they’re only sad.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1901)
This is something I think everyone should not only know, but also incorporate into their operational psyche in such ways as to totally reframe their treatment of all people they meet and interact with; particularly those people who seem bent on hurting us as individuals. It explains so many things and augments our compassion toward the hurtful, whilst helping us to feel less fearful and less safe around them.
Those who seem convicted in their badness—the ones who bend us out of shape in their anger, violence and aggression—may be so riddled by the bullets of penetrated sadness they can only react by badness. Is this an excuse for them? Yes and no. It simply helps us to understand.
It helps to understand why things are the way they are.
When we understand this, we understand that people’s natures are more the same than they are different. ‘Bad’ people behave badly for real and understandable reasons and this truth should bear itself on our consciousness and our consciences more.
Those who feel they cannot love others probably have much more uncontainable and inner sadness than they can safely deal with. Their graphic inner sadness manifests in an outer badness. We get fearful in situations where we feel unsafe and we cannot think that the aggressor is even more vulnerable within themselves than we are.
Forgiveness Borne on Compassion
When finally we understand that people are always products of the culture around them we finally begin to understand the notions of advantage and disadvantage.
We are neither better than others nor worse. We are products of the culture and our environment we were brought up in. If we have very little badness in us, it’s probably true we have very little sadness in us. We were well cared for.
In the same way, the hurt person is not able to not feel hurt. They react badly because it’s all they expect and it’s all they know. And it may be all very unconscious for them. They’ve yet to submit themselves for healing.
Whatever it is, we, the compassionate, should strive to forgive their trespasses against us, because of our empathy for their situation: less family support now and more damage done then.
What underlies the badness in our world is sadness—unreconciled and angry about the injustices endured. The only response that works is compassion, through and through. Compassion helps us be less fearful in unsafe situations, it diffuses conflict, and it is the mood of forgiveness, which is both a gift to them and us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.