Regardless of a person’s background, anyone is capable of causing harm to others. Rather than go into this in a broad and deep way, I bring this topic up for a specific reason. The behavior of people who harm others without planning to do so. A way to think about the tendencies in people to accumulate experience in a way that fosters it. Also, a perspective for remaining far apart from this tendency during the passage of time. Remember this:
I am referring to conversations with people with a life experience that greatly emboldens their reaction to things you say. They abruptly cut off the conversation. Hint at a full disregard for what you have shared. Present some variation of a scowl and an obvious show of disdain at suggestions offered or the idea of further interaction.
Our society puts great value on having a “thick skin“. Resilience in the face of adversity is highly praised. However, that resilience often fails in the area of human connections when failures to connect bring severe consequences. Anyone can be given the shaft and undermined. Even those with a strong backbone. It turns out that a thick skin in social situations is more a luxury for those most immune to the consequences fully expressing it in situations that seem to call for it.
Where does this natural ability to give a sharp tongue or natural distrust come from? I draw insight from Diane Meriwether’s thoughts about cruelty and evil which I find very related to this. Her post on Quora is one I read months ago and is among the ones I remember most. In response to the question, “Why do certain people derive pleasure from doing cruel things to their fellow human beings?”, she has some very well-considered thoughts on the matter of true evil. The expression of others presenting an adverse disposition may not be intentional cruelty, but the result is similar. It comes from past pain.
Harshness does not always come from an intent to do harm. Sometimes, it is confused with firm direction expressed to sustain order in situations that could otherwise become chaotic or sway to an unproductive outcome. The problem is when such behaviors become such a durable way of life that it undermines connections, choices, and possibilities. In short order, persistent bitterness can be a trigger for evil even while the underlying sources of that harshness itself was not intended to perpetuate harm. The social dynamics can be complex but the cause and effect can be traced back to pain.
The pain is often built up. Not over weeks or days. A person can usually recover from this. The pain is the kind built up over a much longer period. Years of disappointments. Years of failed outcomes. Years of personal adversity not fully resolved. Years of trust broken in many small ways. Years of beliefs that did not work out, but the inability to admit it. Years of silver tongue promises that were shown false. Even truths and noble perspectives that did not work out in reality. Years of struggle and difficulties that hardened the psyche.
Awareness of the presence of this pain is then missing. Not completely, but the past pain has grown large enough to define how a person interprets and encounters the world. When that person speaks, that pain then shows itself in many ways. Words or vibes that cut the heart and acutely suffocate the energy to continue in a discussion. Those who can govern that pain properly and with good intentions may channel that pain into wisdom. People oftentimes can discern intent and may endure the latter to useful effect. Others with intent that is not negative, but is like an empty void, may simply be seen as expressing a shrewd but shrill discourse.
No remedy exists for this circumstance. Years of accumulated pain is not trivially or easily overcome. Despite joyful countenance, unresolved pain can manifest itself as very certain opposition. As a result, those who often receive the effects of such disposition may become drawn into the orbit of pain so often as to be transformed by it. Usually, to no good end.
A tremendous act of will and continuous recognition of this process are good safeguards to govern one’s own interpretation of events and situations so as not to fall too far into this cycle of the lifelong accumulation of pain. Be aware of what is going on within. Recognize that sometimes, there are things you cannot improve on in terms of relationships with others although you should try vigorously anyway.
Despite it all, strive to constantly hold true to virtue.