I made a comment similar to this on Facebook once and my friend’s reaction really got me thinking. I actually stated, word for word, “Everyone is just trying to do the best they can” and my friend responded “I think that’s giving people too much credit.” I remember being surprised by my quick emotional reaction to his response. I felt like I needed to defend the human race. Without giving it much thought I wrote back “I don’t think so. I think everyone, at their core, wants to do well and be good…some people just have a harder time getting there,” and that’s where our short conversation ended.

I was reminded of this interaction again tonight while watching, for the second time, the movie “Our Idiot Brother.” At one point the protagonist of the film, Ned, states ,”I like to think that if you put your trust out there, that if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.” I felt like saying “Amen brother” out loud in the theatre. I really feel like I resonate with what Ned is saying. I too believe in peoples’ inherent goodness. In my opinion, everyone wants to feel loved, accepted, important, and good. Even the most cynical, cruel, and selfish humans have within themselves a longing for love and goodness. I believe when people do bad things, they always have a reason. Maybe they feel trapped, or hopeless, or desperate. Or maybe they are imitating survival techniques that they have seen others use in their past.

It seems like to be a teacher, or any sort of counselor, or a parent even, a person would have to agree that people can and will “rise to the occasion.” This is one reason why I like working with a more “challenging” population of young adults. I like to be the person who sees the good in even the most rebellious and angry teens, and then helps them find other ways to meet their needs than whatever they are doing. Without exception, every person whom I have met, when I really peel away the layers, is good. No human truly delights in doing wrong or causing others pain just because they can.

I think it also helps that I believe in karma. I think a lot of people would agree with Ned and I that humans are inherently good, but I’m sure most people would not go so far as to say that they are really willing to trust everyone. Many would argue that with that mentality you are asking to be taken advantage of. And they are probably right. Just because people are inherently good does not mean that they will always act like it. Obviously, people are capable of horrible acts. People steal, lie, cheat, and kill. But that is not really my problem. I feel like my role is simply to give people the “benefit of the doubt” and hope that people will “rise to occasion.” When people don’t, I leave it up to karma to make things right. All I can do is love others, trust others, and provide others with opportunities to do the right thing.

If you haven’t seen “Our Idiot Brother” yet I highly recommend it. It is a sweet story about one man who reaps the benefits of living a life that is honest, trusting, and full of optimism.

Advertisements