Select Page

The other day, a friend showed me the security cameras at their house where two people, in masks, came up to the cars in their driveway. They were peaking into the vehicles, presumably to see if there was anything of value to steal from them. So why do people do bad things? Why do people do something at the expense of hard-working people and hurt them?
There are a few answers to these questions, but the most simple and concise answer is, “hurt people, hurt people.” That may sound like a cop-out, but we live in a fallen world. I’m not talking about total depravity, but we live in a world where the susceptibility to do wrong and harm is there because of our experience. “Hurt people, hurt people” also does not condone or remove responsibility, but it gives context to people. Sometimes when people do something bad, in our minds, whether consciously or subconsciously, they become “bad.” Even if a person’s intention is malicious, we can still say they are hurt. They are hurt because they are deceived, whether that’s by the devil, society, their culture, or their beliefs. A person may steal because they have a victim mindset, that they can never succeed if they do things with honesty and integrity; this is deception, this is hurt. Even if a person is in poverty, programs and agencies offer aid and means to meet necessities. However, when one comes from a victim mindset or a mindset of scarcity, there is a sense of deprivation. When this sense exists in one’s mind, it will drive behavior to obtain whatever it is.
People sometimes do bad things because there’s a lack of empathy and a lack of seeing the bigger picture. If you go back to your Psychology 101 class, you remember learning about Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Kohlberg defines 3 leves with 6 stages; 2 stages per level. The levels go from pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional. Long story short, Kohlberg’s theory argues that as humans, we develop a morality that goes from doing what’s right out of fear of punishment that later develops into a sense of empathy. He also argues that most people stay in the middle level, conventional, which is doing the right thing merely to have the approval of others and keep order. Post-conventional is where a person has empathy for our common humanity, to see that my actions have repercussions on others. Now the question is, why aren’t more people in post-conventional moral development? We have to remember that people are doing their best with the best they got, and sometimes the fact of the matter is what people got is terrible. That doesn’t mean people can’t change and improve. But we’re not talking about that now; it’s not our position to fix or control people; we can only control ourselves.
Understanding that “hurt people, hurt people” is why people do bad things helps us develop compassion for others; we remember that people make the most sense within the context of their story.