Because there is no such thing.
I do not believe that there is a single human born devoid of the capacity for goodness and morality. We all possess such potential. The difference is in the behavior that we exhibit. And there are reasons, not excuses, for doing what we do and why one’s moral compass may be off.
To simply label others or ourselves a “bad person” is too easy. It is an absolver of blame. After all, if this is just who we are, what can be done about it? Accepting that diagnosis releases us from the responsibility to take corrective action. People are not inherently bad.
People are damaged. Between birth and death, a lot happens to influence who we become. The struggles of life are never ending and an opportunity to take the wrong path at the fork in the road is always imminent. A resulting shift in our outlook and conduct could come at any point.
Life can be merciless, extra unkind to some, and filled with unfathomable experiences. Awful circumstances are endured. People who are supposed to love, support and protect us, sometimes don’t. Sometimes, they kill our spirit and beat us down to the point where we don’t even know who we are. So, we settle for the worst version of ourselves.
To this person: You are not bad, you are broken — but not irreparably. Seek repair. Whether it’s therapy, active forgiveness, a long overdue conversation or some other route, find a way to face your demons — and then slay them.
Hurt people hurt people. We sometimes give pieces of our pain to others. It’s not always intentional, but it can be. Sometimes it’s wanting others to feel how we feel, cry like we’ve cried, and lose the hope that we’ve lost. We’ve allowed our pain to fester into bitterness and don’t want to be alone in our suffering.
Other times we may not even be aware of how deeply we’ve been afflicted. We come up with perfectly justifiable reasons for the things we’ve done to hurt others, none of them seemingly connected to what has been done to us. But whole, happy people don’t do around stomping on hearts and ruining other human beings.
To this person: You are not bad, you are wounded. Seek healing. Come to terms with what ails you so that you can get well. Then perhaps you’ll go around helping to restore others instead.
People are confused. Between religion, culture, politics and familial units, we are raised with varying beliefs that clash on occasion. Some are taught to have disparaging views about people based on things like race, gender or sexual preference. Some go so far as to act on these views in a harmful manner. Some were never told that the measure of a man (or woman) is found in the content of his or her character.
There are times we’ve been made to believe that we are right when we couldn’t be more wrong. When offered a viewpoint with which we might agree, but that contradicts other beliefs, cognitive dissonance ensues. To settle our mental unrest, we’ll often abandon the new thought in favor of those that have already been embedded within us.
To this person: You are not bad, you are misguided. Seek empathy and tolerance. Educate yourself on people you may see as different than you. Work to become an independent thinker. I am sorry that some cruel person put this hatred in your heart. You may cause others sorrow, but are doing the greatest damage to yourself.
There are people committed to self-destruction. Engaging in self-sabotage, failing because we don’t ever put ourselves in a position to succeed, and resisting joy are sure to negatively impact our self-esteem. Soon, we deem ourselves unworthy of happiness and deserving of punishment. Naturally we engage in behavior that renders consequences in support of our theory.
To this person: You are not bad, you are malcontent. Seek self-care. Figure out why you deny yourself the pleasures of life. Try a bunch of things until you find one that ignites your passion and offers a constructive outlet for expression. Treat yourself to things you enjoy. Learn to love yourself. When you love yourself you’ll not only have a more positive self-image, but hold yourself to a higher standard.
People are self-absorbed. Some explanations are more difficult to accept than others. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some of us just don’t show much concern for anyone or anything outside of our own interests. We’re too preoccupied with our own feelings and desires to consider another’s. We’re reckless with other people’s emotions. Our actions scream, “I don’t care about anyone but me.” We are driven by the id, operating on a pleasure principle as we engage in willful shenanigans and dismissive, irresponsible behavior.
To this person: You are not bad, you are narcissistic. Seek altruism. Consciously think of others sometimes until such thoughts become subconscious. Volunteer with causes that don’t directly affect you. Help people who can never repay you. This will help you develop less self-serving traits. You’re actually likely to enjoy the way it makes you feel. In the end, it still kind of serves you!
Most of us could probably stand to be more forgiving of ourselves. Making a mistake as a parent does not make you a bad parent. Disappointing a friend doesn’t make you a bad friend. We are what we repeatedly do.
Rather than intrinsically bad, or good for that matter, consider that you are simply more or less evolved in your personal development than the next person.