Notice I didn’t say we always do what we feel is right. There’s a big difference. BESIDES . . . what’s right for you could easily wrong someone else (see my post What’s your point . . . of view? )
There are always at least two sides to a story. The trick is considering all sides.
Talk to someone who is unemployed because their employer could no longer afford to pay them. They are angry, frustrated, depressed, and ridden with guilt because they can’t pay their bills and they feel they’re letting their family down. Then talk to the employer whose bank account can’t support payroll because customers are not paying their bills. The employer is angry, frustrated, depressed, and ridden with guilt because they’ve let their employees and their family down.
Interview two women in love with the same man. Remember Death Becomes Her?
Read The War Prayer by Mark Twain.
Most of the time, I understand why I do what I do. It’s either:
2.The right thing to do
3. The best thing for me
4. Best for someone I care about or
5. Something I want to do.
I have to assume that others base their decisions on similar criteria. Therefore, I am curious.
Why do people do what they do? How do they justify it? Rationalize it?
How can a woman leave her sleeping toddler and newborn alone in her apartment at midnight to go out? Is it necessary? Right? Best for her? We know it’s not best for her babies. Sounds to me like a want to situation. If you were to stop her on the street, what excuse would she give? Would any reason be acceptable?
As a person, I would have to say no.
As a writer, I must worm my way into her head to uncover how she reconciles herself with what she’s doing. Then, I have to show her character on the written page in such a way that the reader can understand her actions and follow her to the consequences. That’s a tough job when you disagree with someone’s behavior.
The other night, I awoke to a violent fight in my neighborhood. I could hear a man yelling. No, he wasn’t just yelling, he was raging. His anger had completely outgrown his capacity to vocalize it. He was doing that hoarse, spit-throwing bellow. There was door-slamming and wall-banging. Then after about twenty minutes of his disagreement with the universe, I heard her–the wailing, the pleading, the sobbing, the begging. I called 911. The police must have arrived soon afterward, because the noise stopped. I hope the fighting did.
I’ll never stop trying to understand how a person lets anger possess them. Is it possible to love somebody one minute and beat the crap out of them the next? And how do you justify and/or rationalize that? Is it necessary? Is it the right thing to do? Is it best for the rager? Best for the person they’re hurting? Or, is it another one of those want to situations?
Unless you’re a drunken hothead with a numb fist and little or no self-control, I’m sure you can figure out the answer to that one.
Here’s one more example to prime your thought pump.
I actually used my middle finger last Sunday. I couldn’t believe it was still functioning. I thought I’d maxed it out during my last episode of city driving. (I’m joking. I save it for special occasions. That middle finger carries a lot of weight in some circles.)
I was on a busy, two-lane highway, waiting to make a left turn. I watched in my rear view mirror as some jerk in a bright yellow truck flew up behind me. He didn’t brake until the last minute. Nearly gave me a heart attack. (I’ve been rear-ended twice on that same highway.) Before I even had a chance to sigh in relief, he laid on his horn. I guess I was the only thing standing between his boat and the river.
I had my blinker on. I had brake lights. When I realized he couldn’t interpret the blinker or brake lights, I rolled the window down and gave him the full-arm, “stop being an idiot” indicator signal. It worked. The horn stopped.
Okay. So . . . what was his justification?
What about mine? Personally, I believe I used all of my reasons, with an emphasis on number 5.
I’ll leave you with that. It’s 8 AM and I have to get to work. I don’t think my boss will consider “I had to finish my blog post” a good reason to be late. And my job, falls under category number 1. Need I say more?