Effective Positivity: Inspire All, Empower Only Good


Photo Credit: S. Braswell

People are not all equal.

That is, all deserve to be approached with openness, kindness, compassion, and the basics of humanity, but not all deserve much more beyond that. This is because there is such a thing as a bad person.

I was like many of you, once upon a time. I believed that everyone was inherently good, that many were just confused, lost, and that there were really no truly bad people. I therefore wasted my  energy in a lot of potential good, not actual good.

This is a tricky line to draw. People should be given the benefit of the doubt, and even those who make mistakes should be given a chance to show that they can be better than how they have been.

At least, in theory, it sounds reasonable. But, as with most credit-based systems in an open market, the potential for abuse is fairly high. (Check out our economy’s ledger if you need proof.)

I understand that “hurt people hurt people,” and I still believe in the majority of people being not-bad, even if they do things that harm others. But there is a small percentage (which equates to a large number, nonetheless) of people who truly are bad. Until this fact is acknowledged, these individuals will continue to cause serious damage to innocent, well-meaning, unassuming people, because bad guys understand and take tremendous advantage of the status quo ignorance.

Q: “How do you tell the difference between Good and Evil?”

A: “You give it power.” ~Marilyn Vos Savant

That answer stuck with me since I first read it in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column, one of my favorite go-to sections of The Washington Post when I was a kid. Its simple brilliant truth manifested itself through people I would meet and try to help throughout my life. The only caveat of this test is that by the time “evil” has been identified, power has been put into the wrong hands, and serious damage has often been done.

I was in a harmful relationship where I was once a Zen Ignorant – I was insistent that goodness was to be found in everyone. My perpetrator ex was simply confused because he did not grow up with the kind of love that I did. If I showed him kindness, compassion, patience, and encouragement, he would be inspired into becoming the same. Right?

What took me quite a while to figure out was that my ex understood, from very early on, my need to be fair and kind to others. So, he tailored his words and actions accordingly, and very effectively, to my detriment. This alone did not make him a bad person, though.

Not even did the fact that he knew to hide the things he did to me from the public and the law – any common criminal would do this, and not all criminals are actually bad people. (I know this because following our brother’s death, my surviving brother became a gangster. He did things that gangsters did, and felt the anger and lack of connection to his conscience during those years in order to survive in the streets. I get it.)

But my ex was not an adolescent/young adult who didn’t know better. He was not living in the streets, looking over his shoulder every second. He was not living in nor reacting from fear or violence. He was not mentally ill and needing medication, nor was he on drugs. Along with the lack of someday-pardonable reasons for his behaviors, what truly set him apart from a “lost/confused” person was the fact that my ex enjoyed causing me pain and seeing me suffer.

And this was made possible because I gave him power: the power to disconnect me from my own sense of worth and abilities; the power to flex his “paternal rights” through the court system as a means to continue to terrorize me for nearly a decade after I’d escaped him; the power to stay in this country and continue the cycle with other naive young girls.

Today, I am very mindful of whom I empower. I am openly kind to all that cross my path because I want to fill the world with whatever goodness that I can. But I do not empower everyone. The lesson on the dangers of empowering the wrong person is one of my greatest gifts from that dastardly period. My hard head about having a soft heart had to be split wide open to understand this. But yours doesn’t.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

In retrospect, there were a lot of clues that my ex was one to be left slithering on the side of the road. If my mind were more open—seeing people as they were, not as I insisted they were (which was “good” and “nice”)—I would have recognized what I was dealing with. But it was fixated on ideals, and no fixation in our mind allows truth to clearly materialize.

Most people who do bad things are truly simply hurt, lost, and confused, some, terribly so. Help if you can, or walk away if you cannot. But keep this in mind:

Some people are just bad to the marrow of their bones.  It is not your responsibility to fix or help them, nor to even try to understand them. In fact, that you cannot comprehend, on any common level, their reasoning, is a good thing. Chances are, there is nothing to rationalize, for there’s nothing humane in the rationalization of seeking and finding pleasure in an innocent person’s pain. You just need to learn to recognize such individuals, and deal with them accordingly, as you would with any deadly serpent in your path.

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8 Responses to Effective Positivity: Inspire All, Empower Only Good

  1. Jonathan March 25, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Brilliant post! This encapsulates the struggle that many who have been taught that evil is somewhere else, not here. It keeps your power, your integrity in check, while extending courtesy and kindness, you do not give your power to anyone who does not deserve it.
    Excellent. Thank you for this post.

    • Yazminh AB March 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      You’re very welcome, Jonathan! Thank you for reading and responding. Keep the light brightening.

  2. Anne Omland March 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Amazing article, Yazminh. You beautifully articulate what so many of us feel. I love the piece about knowing who you’re empowering. Really insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yazminh AB March 25, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      Thank you, Anne. Glad it resonated with you. 🙂

  3. Jeremy March 28, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    “The lesson on the dangers of empowering the wrong person is one of my greatest gifts”
    ==> I can see that for sure. Both extremes are bad, though I think I would need to come from experience to know which is worse. Putting your walls up because of all that fear would also mean you lose any chance of making a genuine connection with someone.

    I don’t really think of whether someone is good or bad. Too much effort to ponder over whether someone is just “lost/confused”. I just think of whether the person is worth my time.

    • Yazminh AB March 28, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Hey Jeremy! Thanks for commenting! There is a distinction between not letting people in indiscriminately and having a sharper radar for what someone’s essence may be about, and so not engaging as necessary, accordingly.

      “I just think of whether the person is worth my time,” is also a good way to approach it, but then you would still have to determine values to know what is considered “worthy” of your time. 🙂

  4. joypcynlove April 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    I recently told a close friend that I love everyone. Everyone. I also told her that I DO NOT love everyone’s behaviors because nearly everyone is lost in the grips of self-hate and egocentricity. I will not tolerate someone who gives unconsciousness such power because they are dangerous because of it. They are identifying with greed, hate, and delusion willingly.
    I brought this up to her because she said that I was picking on and bad-mouthing her husband. From my perspective, he is clueless about business and always offers unconscious opinions that – if followed – would result in disaster.
    My opinions have nothing to do with him as a human being. I am responding to what he is putting forth.
    I am not confused between “his intentions are good” and his business opinions are crappy! Yes, I’m sure he may mean well, but I wouldn’t trust him with ANY of it! That is the distinction I make.
    Apparently everyone is on a path to awakening whether we know it or not. We all start in different places with different circumstances – learning or not learning our life lessons in this lifetime. The Buddha said it was possible for everyone to awaken and end suffering. And since we don’t ever know the big picture, it’s hard to say how it will all shake out in the “end.” I know how I want to be. I have no control of how others will be. I barely have control of being the person I want to be – so I imagine it can be a struggle for many as well.

    In lovingkindness,

    • Yazminh AB April 1, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your story, Alex. I see your point, and it’s an honorable view to give faith to the potential good in all, regardless of their faulty processes. My experience has been that it is not necessary for me to hang on to that viewpoint so much as to deal with the situation at hand accordingly. I don’t have the unshakable belief, nor an unshakable disbelief, in the positive possibilities of a person who isn’t displaying it. It just has been a lot more helpful for me to know what I’m dealing with and remove any sense of obligation to continue giving or thinking good thoughts about the person. It’s not about dwelling in the negativity either; just acknowledging it when it surfaces, and again, dealing with it accordingly. It is that follow-up with knowing how to properly deal with what we learn that makes all the difference in the direction of our lives, in acquisition of the lesson.

      I love that you are such a kind, loving person. The world needs you.

      I do have a post in my queue about this topic, our different roles in the world for the good of all. Stay tuned. 😉

      Yours truly,

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