Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The Good The Bad and the Ugly- Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged
Sometimes I don’t recognize the world we live in.  From a parenting perspective, I definitely don’t recognize much of today’s style from that of my youth.  From a business angle, I’m unfamiliar with today’s lackluckster principles when I compare them not only to what I used to expect as a consumer and now know is nonexistent, as well as the standards I would hold myself accountable to as an employee/contractor/someone who provides products or services.  And from a personal standpoint, I can’t for the life of me, understand why we communicate the way we do as friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances, regardless of how advanced technology is, as it seems like taking a step backward in regards to fostering relationships.  But if there’s one thing I’ve got a handle on, it is people.  People are easy.  They’re always the same, no matter what the current trend is.  There are good ones and there are bad ones.  The key to existing among them all is to know how to identify which is which and what to expect from each group.

The identification process seems like it should be easy.  The solid good and solid bad people are no brainers, even when you account for subjectivity, as they are constantly acting and speaking in ways that show their true colors.  We expect solid intentions, integrity, and honesty from good people.  The folks who give up their secular lives to serve God, those that consistently give of themselves for others, and those that are forever helping out and giving words of support and encouragement are usually batched into the GOOD side.  On the opposite end of the gamut is folks BAD to the core.  For these folks, we expect ill intent, deceit, and usually harm.  It usually goes that the people who rape, kill, steal, and spew hate are dead giveaways to being on the BAD end of the radar.  There’s a myriad of people in between.  This is where it gets murky.  

No matter what your predestined or learned character is, we all have the propensity to teeter from one side to the other from time to time.  In fact, I would say the vast majority of people appear like they’re stuck in this middle ground of good people who do bad things and bad people who do good things.  It seems like they’re almost the same.  I beg to differ, though.  I truly believe that most people, regardless of bad actions or words, have the best of intentions, and are therefore good.  However, identifying and acknowledging that small percentage of people you meet that are truly bad at heart, even though they’re posing as good folks, is paramount to your success in peacefully co-existing with them.

But how do you interpret those folks in the middle?  You do it by monitoring the consistency in their actions over time, and always circling back around to intention.  A good person who does bad things, no matter how often, usually can be cracked as a good egg by analyzing intention and overall ratio of good/bad actions.  If the endeavor is positive, even though the execution is not always on track with folks, odds are they’re just good peeps stumbling along the way of learning to demonstrate their true selves by way of their actions.  Over time, we usually subconsciously note that the number of good actions outweigh the bad in virtuous folks.  A bad person who does good things, however, can usually be debunked over time when the quantity of bad actions surpasses the number of good actions.  Again, intention must be considered, as well.  Was the action born out wicked intent?  Was it meant to produce harm?  If the answer is consistently or even just more often than not, yes, then you’ve come across a bad seed.

Now let me be clear: I can hang with and truly enjoy, as well as usually learn something, from just about anyone.  It’s stamped into my DNA to be able to talk to any scam artist, drug dealer, or party girl sitting next to me at a bar, gab with any drag queen or grand dad standing behind me in line at the grocery, or find a commonality with any Tiger Mom volunteering at school with me.  I do not discriminate; there’s room in my personal interaction spectrum for all.  I can usually find something positive in, and extract something noteworthy from, just about everyone I meet.  The people I allow into the inner folds of my family circle, though, have to be proven good stock.  

If you learn to identify the type of person you’re dealing with in every situation, and learn what to expect from each type of person, you can usually go mostly unscathed.  Luckily, for most of us this isn’t too difficult because naturally we try to surround ourselves with good people.  Even if you’ve done battle with, or been part of, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly in other periods of your life, as your kids start to grow up and recognize the difference between right and wrong and look to you as a role model, I think we all subconsciously start cleaning out our houses of acquaintance.  I’ve weeded out some of the obvious bad, held on longer than necessary to some of the questionable characters in my sphere, but eventually just came to a place where some of the old lot was grandfathered in, but anyone new gaining access to my family, through my friendship, must go through a rigorous test aimed at identifying decency.  My testing is not disguised…it’s similar to Glenda, The Good Witch, asking Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” I say lay it out on the table.  It’s funny, because most people will tell you outright, if asked, what they’re all about.  Even if they don’t say the words, “I’m a good person” or “Watch out for me, I’m not a very good person,” they’ll unconsciously spell it out with their response.

Let’s be honest, though.  Most of us don’t ask people about their intentions.  Most of us use our perception of people, and that sometimes is comprised only of a first impression, to establish if someone falls above or below the decency line.  And we don’t usually consciously decide if someone is a good person or a bad person.  We just process that in the background of our brain and use it as a baseline to determine what to expect from that person in the future.  When you know what sort of people you’re dealing with and what sort of actions to expect from different types of people, it’s easy to work within the confines of probability.  In other words, the guys (or gals) that daily stalk our alleys, waiting for an unlocked back door or an open garage door as an opportunity for theft, they don’t stump me.  I am not hurt or surprised when our bikes get stolen, as I would expect thieves to steal anything they can get their hands on.  I do not judge, as I have no idea what said thief is dealing with at home, nor if he or she might truly need my bike more than I do, say as a sole mode of transportation.  But I surely wouldn’t ask them to housesit for me when I’m out of town.  Conversely, the neighborhood mom who always has time for a smile and a kind word of encouragement for anyone who crosses her path, even though she’s busy raising four kids, supporting an extended family, coaching the Special Olympics Team for her youngest special-needs child, all while waiting for her military husband to come back from serving his country overseas, I don’t question her impact on my family or society as a whole.  I know what I’m working with in both cases.

When you stick to what to you know and expect people to be who they are, it’s all good.  It’s when you expect different results from people, or even doubt the experience you’ve had with someone, that you tend to falter.  When you constantly wait for the tried and true husband to screw up, you’re looking for trouble.  When you keep expecting Sigourney Weaver to do the right thing in Working Girl, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak.  Don’t expect the worst of good people just because you’re in a bad mood or overly suspect one day, and don’t let your guard down around folks proven to act on ill intent, no matter how much you want to think they’re turning over a new leaf.  I’ve been known to every so often re-question the results of my testing on people, thinking somehow the assessment was faulty even though I’ve time-trialed no less than ten times.  Luckily my kids are constantly pointing out the obvious.

“Your friend Jack is a flake, Mom, but he’s still a good person” or “Mom, why would you stay friends with someone who constantly hurts your feelings?  I know I wouldn’t.”

My kids really put it in perspective for me.  You see, we adults occasionally get confused when the good folks sometimes do bad things and the bad folks sometimes do good things.  We think it’s a deal-breaker, a side-switcher, a game-changer.  It’s not.  Kids know it’s not.  They can see right through people.  They gravitate toward good and cower from evil, similar to how animals instinctively do.  We adults have those primitive intuitions too, but we often let the ultra-fast pace of our lives and sometimes peer pressure dull our response to our instincts.   Follow your gut.  Consult your inner child for direction.  Do whatever you have to do.  But know who you’re dealing with at all times, and anticipate their actions and behavior.  You’ll simplify your life.