Early in my psychology career, I often participated in multidisciplinary team assessments of licensed professionals (mostly physicians) who’d gotten themselves into trouble with their licensing boards (and often with the law, too) by abusing alcohol/drugs or by otherwise behaving recklessly/aggressively.
Each such assessment began with a meeting at which members of the assessment team would float all kinds of hypotheses about why such an intelligent, successful professional would make such unintelligent, self-defeating choices: maybe he/she was under too much stress; maybe he/she had an overly-critical/demanding spouse; maybe he/she had an undiagnosed mental illness. But when it came time for me to voice my hypothesis, it was always the same: maybe he/she is just a jerk. Don’t laugh! Have you ever stopped and thought about how many things you have to do in your daily life solely because of these people?
You have to lock your doors at night (and many of us do more than just that to protect our homes and families) — because of them. You have to be careful about where you go and what times of the day/night and with whom you go there — because of them. You have to remove your shoes and belt, have your bags x-rayed, and stand with your arms above your head in some contraption that blows air over you before you can get on an airplane — because of them. You have to remember different and increasingly-complex passwords for every website and account that you access electronically (and show government/employer-issued identification for many things that you access in person) — because of them. You pay more for virtually everything that you buy to offset the sellers’ losses from theft, fraud, frivolous lawsuits, etc. — because of them.
You could sit there all day and add thing after thing to that list — because of them. We worry, we waste time, we waste money, we’re inconvenienced, day in and day out — because of them. If you really think about it, we put up with an awful lot because of them, and this is precisely why we have so many causing so much worry, waste, and inconvenience in our society: we tolerate them; we accept their bogus excuses and bogus apologies, and we show “compassion” for them when our compassion ought to be reserved for those whom they harm. Here’s a case in point:
In April of 2017, just blocks from my home, one of them got drunk, tortured three dogs (killing one of them), then picked up a gun and fired shots into two of his neighbors’ houses, precipitating an armed standoff with police (which thankfully ended with no officers or bystanders being harmed and the jerk being arrested and charged with seven felonies: three counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm into an occupied dwelling, one count of criminal interference with law enforcement, and one count of criminal threat against a police officer). What’s more, in 2015, this same person had been charged with killing a puppy and making criminal threats, and he was on probation at the time of the April 2017 standoff.
So what do you think was the consequence in May of this year when the person pled guilty to just one count of cruelty to animals and the one count of interference with law enforcement? The remaining charges were dropped, and the jerk was sentenced to one year. In prison? Nope, on probation, again. One year, that’s it. Consecutive to his preexisting probation term at least? Nope, concurrent with it. Why? Well, his attorney claimed that he is a veteran with a combat injury and post-traumatic stress, which (take it from me, a psychologist who has treated numerous veterans with post-traumatic stress), rather than being an excuse, is actually an insult to all veterans who’ve been through similarly-traumatic experiences in the service of our nation yet would never dream of committing the crimes that this jerk committed.
See how ridiculously tolerant we’ve become of bad behavior in America?
One of our most valuable companies, Google, has what I’ve always considered to be one of the most uninspiring mottos in all of corporate America: “Don’t be evil.” But what makes that particular “aspiration” so underwhelming is precisely what makes it worth noting here: it can reasonably be expected of every single adult human being on the planet.
We should expect people, ourselves included, to do more than simply not be evil — we should expect people to use their brains so as not to cause problems for others by doing or saying things that are stupid or inconsiderate even if they’re not malicious. And rather than simply being satisfied with not being evil, we should all aspire to actually be good, to do our best to make positive contributions to things larger than ourselves.
But at the very least, we should expect people not to be jerks, and when they are, we should make it clear that we’re no longer going to tolerate that behavior — not in our personal lives, not in our workplaces, not in our communities, not in our country.
Brian Russell wanted to learn how people could live together as peacefully and prosperously as possible, so he studied what makes us tick (and got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology), how public policy keeps us in line (and got a law degree), and what motivates us to do our best (and got an M.B.A.). Then, he put theory to the test, practicing both psychology and law, starting his own small businesses, consulting with business leaders and lawmakers, and traveling the world comparing what does and doesn’t work in 40 societies. Now, he shares his expertise in people, public policy, and productivity on national television and radio, in his book, "Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement Is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It," and here on Newsmax. Learn more at DrBrianRussell.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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