Cruel acts are committed every day, every moment. There is no love in bullying, torture, rape, murder, hurtful words, calculated indifference, revenge, betrayal. We encounter little acts of meanness every day. Moreover, most of us, if not all, have in one way or another hurt somebody. You have hurt somebody, I have hurt somebody – it is fine to admit that.
The majority of people are born empathetic – able to understand and share feelings of others. Only a tiny percentage of people lack empathy. These people can commit cruel acts because they don’t have the ability to feel a living being’s suffering. But why do those who have this ability hurt each other? How can we reconcile the fact that violence and aggression are around us every day, with the assumption that people are born to love and be loved?
I believe that there are three main reasons why people commit acts of meanness and cruelty, even when they have the ability to empathize. These three reasons are interconnected, and can coexist in each case of meanness or aggression. I have named them “cycle of hurt”, “lack of awareness” and “self-righteousness”. When we are hurt, and we do not know how to heal our emotional wounds, we may start hurting others. We can do it on purpose, knowingly; or we can do it without comprehending real consequences of our actions. This is the cycle of hurt. I put the lack of awareness into a separate category because it is important to acknowledge that hurting others we might not know, or actively choose not to know, that our actions cause discomfort or suffering. Finally, in case of self-righteousness we know or suspect that we are hurting others but feel that what we are doing must be done, that we have the moral right to do it.
I don’t mean to say that hurting others is not “normal”. I don’t like the word “normal” – it is vague and filled with moral judgment. And I surely cannot judge because I know that I have hurt others myself. What I mean is that if we want to make the world a better place, we should understand why cruelty and suffering exist, sometimes so close to us, sometimes in our lives. And we should keep believing in each other, keep believing in the power of love, because we cannot built our future on hatred, hurt and revenge. Our past is filled with those. Only by recognizing our own flaws and by forgiving others we can move towards the light.