I’ve been thinking about why good people do bad things lately. No, not because I’ve done anything bad…necessarily. Me? I would never do anything bad…would I? The truth is I have done some “bad” things in my life. I’ve lied to people (little white ones), cheated (not that kind of cheated –diet cheating), trespassed (Barry made me do it), nothing major mind you, but yep I’ve been bad. But before you go judging me, I’ll bet any money that you have too. It must be human nature, built into our DNA that we will, at some point in our lives, do something bad. From that first bite of apple…
I started thinking about “bad vs good” when watching the tv series Breaking Bad. I love the show, love the actors and I think the writing is very, very good. The main character, Walter White, starts out as a really nice guy that we can relate to but as the story progresses he changes, once he starts breaking bad (A colloquialism popular in the American Southwest referring to when someone has taken a turn off the path of the straight and narrow, when they’ve deviated from what’s right.) he spirals into a real bad ass. What is most disturbing about watching his character is how he so easily progresses from good to bad. And, what may be worse, we sympathize with him. We get why he does what he does. Well, not all of the bad he does, but enough to worry me.
I realize that, wow; we all have the capacity to be bad under the right circumstance. Seriously. Think about it, have you ever taken a cookie when you were told you weren’t allowed one, or “borrowed” a few coins from your dads/brothers/sisters coin jar but “forgot” to return them. Yep, that’s how it starts, just kidding…sort of. We rationalize that it’s not that bad, they won’t even miss a few quarters, but before you know it BAM! You’ve crossed some invisible line and there’s no going back. You are now a bad ass and if you are not careful you could end up wearing an orange jumpsuit while picking up garbage off the side of the road. If you get caught.
When we were young we tested our parents with our bad behaviour because we needed to learn the difference between acceptable and bad behaviour and so we tested our boundaries. During this time we probably learned that there were also some things that we could get away with.. Just don’t get caught.
The other day I went to buy a few things at a well known large conglomerate craft store, let’s call it…Miguel’s, and when the girl was scanning my purchases I noticed that three of my items scanned in at $0.01. Now I knew they should have scanned at around $6 but did I say anything to her? No way, instead I grinned and happily went on my way. I rationalized that this conglomerate over charges us for almost everything and the cashier would not personally be held responsible for the mistake because the item scanned wrong. Not her fault. There, I rationalized my way out of any remorse for knowingly ripping off a store…or as it is commonly called – stealing.
I’ve come to understand that our motivation behind doing something bad effects how we see reality. You know, like when a cyclist entering a well known European race takes steroids because everyone else does and it’s the only way to win again and again but they deny it to the end because they’ve been denying it for so long that it becomes the truth…to them. Plus the consequences are just too great to see it any other way.
You see, we can all rationalize our bad behaviour because most of us think of ourselves as mostly good, decent human beings. We believe the few bad things we do are over shadowed by the many good things we do. The scale is tipped more towards us being good than bad. Or that the good cancels out the bad.
But sometimes I just don’t know…how deep does your inner Walter White go?