Many times you hear that you don’t know someone fully and thus there may be a larger context to their behaviors. I get that. I am a social psychologist by training. We are taught at a very early part of our training about Kurt Lewin’s perspective on behavior. He posited that behavior is the product of the person by the environment (i.e. context). I fully believe in that as indicated by my whole career focusing on structural level interventions. I mean, everyone has got an origin story, right? Cat woman was demeaned. Batman’s parents were killed in front of him when he was young. Iron Man has to come to terms with the large military industrial complex he has been part of. Sure, there was something in each of them that drove them to their actions, but there was a background and context to them.
Don’t worry, I won’t go deep into psychological theory. Suffice it to say I have worked hard to address the situations in which people live that may very well impact their behaviors. With that said, I don’t excuse bad behaviors that are bad just to be bad. And here, I am back to my usual blog self.
Throughout my work career, I have had a few frenemies and a few that were outright nemeses. In each, I could actually see their “origin story”. Somehow I got peeks into their broken selves. It’s like when watching Stranger Things, you find out why Billy is the cruel person that he is to Max (hint, look at daddy).
However, I too have my own origin story. I grew up poor, hungry and at times scared. But I haved worked really hard all my life to be the best I can around all in my orbit. I would feel horrible if I were to treat other people horribly just because I grew up in sad circumstances. I understand, however, there is such a thing as community trauma and it does impact children from an early start. I don’t discount it. As a matter of fact, I have talked to my son about trying to understand the circumstances of the class bully. I always want to be fair and want my son to be fair as well.
Yet, I must recognize that there are some people who are nasty just to be nasty and use all sorts of things in their lives as excuses. It just doesn’t wash with me. It is a fine line that we all must walk. However, we should be able to walk it with our heads up high.