My wife learned recently that her cousin's former boyfriend and father of their child was in a Bangkok jail for theft or some such charge. This news comes as no surprise to any of us, for this young man has been nothing but trouble for my wife's cousin and her family for a long time, and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he got in real trouble. No place is a good place to get in legal trouble, but Thailand is probably less of a good place than many to spend time in jail or prison.
I don't know what's going to happen to this young man, but I hope that, whatever it is, it serves as a wake-up call that motivates him to change his life for the better. That is, I hope he's hit bottom and now has nowhere to go but up.
My wife doesn't care what happens to him. She seems to feel nothing but contempt for him. She says he's now getting what he deserves or reaping his karma.
I asked her why she supposes he's acted the way he has, and she answered, "Because he's lazy. He doesn't want to work." I asked her why he's lazy, and she replied, "Because he wants to live the good life and enjoy expensive things, but he won't do the work necessary to earn them himself. He expects people to give them to him." I asked why he expects people to give them to him, and she replied, "Because his mom and dad spoiled him. He got everything he wanted when he was growing up just by asking for it, and now he expects the people around him to keep giving him what he wants." "So, he's the way he is because of the way his parents raised him?" I ask. "No," my wife replied. "He could still have turned out like his brother and worked hard and treated people decently. He didn't have to act the way he has." "Well," I ask, "if he could have acted differently but didn't, why do you suppose he didn't?" "Because, like I said before, he's lazy." "Yes, but why is he lazy?" "Don't keep asking me these questions!" she said in exasperation.
Of course, the purpose of these questions is not to exasperate, but to get others thinking about why people do the things they do. That is, what causes them to do what they do. Yet, people don't seem to want to do this. They seem to want to stick with simplistic answers like, "He did it because he wanted to," or "She did it because she's a bad person." If you ask, "Why did he want to do it?" or "Why is she a bad person?"people want you to shut up or change the subject. They want to stick with their finger-pointing blame games and to find any excuse they can for scorning not only misbehavior but also those who misbehave.
But what's the alternative? If one looks for the causes of bad behavior or bad character, does one do as my wife suggested I do and not hold people accountable for what they do? Should the young man I mentioned earlier face no consequences for his acts? If he doesn't, won't he go on exploiting people for his own selfish ends?
I think we can draw a distinction between who people are, superficially and deeply, and what they do. I think we can find certain acts wrong and do what we reasonably can to discourage them and still feel compassion and unconditional regard for those who commit them. Gagdad says this is madness and that people must be subject to the masculine principle of conditional love lest they become foolish and narcissistic "liberals."
But it seems to me that those who do wrong are more likely to do right if they believe that they have it within them to be good and do good, and that we convey this to them when, even though we condemn their wrongful actions and punish them appropriately for them, we go on caring about them and loving them as persons and as manifestations of God no matter what they do.
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