I: First Of All, There’s No Such Thing (To Me)
In my last post about “Intro/Extroversion”, I explained how I’m not very fond of the idea of “types of people.”
"She's the kind of person that..."
"Our relationships is...."
To me, the generality of labels unfairly rule out the gloriously complex nature of a person or relationship or feeling or event.
...As much as one can predominantly lean toward being a "Something," so much of human behavior is unpredictable.
I don’t get married to the idea that I’m a “good/nice person” or even a “bad person” because I don’t think of anyone as any “type of person.”
II: There Is, However, The Choice To Act
One time, a friend had made a huge mistake and was grappling with a lot of guilt and self-loathing.
I tried to console him by saying “You’re not what you do,” to which he replied,
“Actually, Jessie, you are exactly what you do.”
I didn’t realize how right he was. You are what you do.
If you smoke, you are a smoker. If you quit, then you are, in effect, not a smoker anymore.
If you are a lawyer, but leave your firm to start selling cupcakes, you’re now a baker! (And ex-lawyer.)
But we must be careful not give too much credit to one-off instances. If you cheat once, you’re not defined as a cheater. You were. And if you continue to – you still are. But if you made an isolated mistake, admit it, atone for it – then you’re someone who has cheated, but is not currently “a cheater” (And hopefully your partner, whether you stayed together or not, can also see themselves as someone who had been, but is not being cheated on.)
So, correction: You are what you repeatedly do.
Maybe this is too simple a way to “define” people – but like I said, I’m not a fan of doing that anyway.
I’m glad to have found actions as a way to, in my eyes, see people in a way that’s not restrictive, but flexible and empowering. Because –
If who you are depends on what you do,
And you have control over what you do,
Then you have control over who you are.
III: Using This Control To Your Advantage
This has been a surprisingly therapeutic way for me to think. Not only does it give me control over “who I am,”
It makes me more forgiving of others:
My friend got deeply hurt by someone she trusted.
But she was able to forgive them and remain on good terms.
I, a level 9000 Grudge Holder, asked incredulously,
“How can you be so understanding? So forgiving?”
“Because I’ve done so much bad shit, too.”
Here’s a fact that’s neither good nor bad, purely a fact:
People kinda suck sometimes. Including yourself.
We are all capable of darkness, deception, of neglecting and hurting others, of being selfish and careless and bitchy and rude. Maybe you’re like, ~awesome~ 99.9% of the time – I mean, you don’t necessarily have to succumb to every bad impulse. But you do make mistakes, too. And those mistakes are things you have done, not who you are.
What’s important is that you are aware of how dark your thoughts get, how shitty your actions can be, how capable you are of destroying someone else. Knowing how flawed you are allows you to find forgiveness for others, recognizing them as being just as human.
And it makes you more enlightened as a whole:
I truly believe that people can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves. My biggest turn-off is when someone fumbles around with what they perceive as “niceness” with an almost ignorant naiveté, as that is all they have met.
I’m attracted to people who are a little fucked up, who’ve seen themselves be cruel, who’ve felt scary amounts of anger and hatred and rage, who, in all, have familiarity and fluency with both their good and bad parts, and make the choice to do the right thing, anyway.
NOT because "good" is all they know. But because they see their own full spectrum of capabilities, and decide on it.
IV: Context Is King
It’s pretty clear by now that I don't care who people "are," rather, what they choose to do.
But what makes your actions "good"?
Well, as with all things, that's contextual.
Let’s say a man goes to church, pays his taxes, but cheats on his wife and gives no love to his children. Is he “good”?
Depends on the context, right? Good man of Christ, responsible citizen. But bad husband and neglectful father.
Does how "good" your actions are
depend on who's watching you?
In Better Call Saul, a spin-off show from Breaking Bad, protagonist Saul Goodman (AKA Jimmy McGill) is a lawyer who consistently skirts around the law to get things done in his own, sometimes questionable, way. In stark contrast, his brother Chuck (also a lawyer), abides strictly by the book. Chuck sees Saul’s methods as being inadmissible, almost personally offensive, no matter how successful the outcomes are.
When I first read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I found a heroine in Lisbeth Salander. She’s the victim of so many evils, and goes on to find retribution in creative, illegal, dangerous, but (to the reader – at least, to this reader,) admirable ways. Fuck rules, she gets justice. Her prerogative.
I side with Chuck and Lisbeth. People who watch themselves.
I don’t think it’s necessary to go to such extremes, per se (I mean, these stories are fictional), but to me, being/doing “good” is not exemplified by following someone else’s (even the Bible’s or society’s) set of moral codes and rituals. To me,
Altruism is instead defined by
your ability to create your own set of moral values
and stick to them
Does the ideal of “who you are” matter as much as the reality of what you do?
And can “what you do” stand its own ground in your own context?
V: MY Context Is “People That I Love”
One of my best qualities is that I’m not a “nice person." At least, I’m not nice to everyone.
In fact, I don't prefer to even be friends with "nice people."
Not because I don't like them, but because THEY TERRIFY ME.
The worst thing you can do to someone
is pretend to like them when you don't
Manners and civility don't scare me. Duplicity and FAKENESS scare me.
If I don’t like you, YOU WILL KNOW THAT I DON’T LIKE YOU. (But I dislike like, maybe 2 people total lol).
Niceness for the sake of being nice, is an overrated, overvalued, highly inefficient, sometimes hurtful value.
The outline of integrity that I created is based on the people I love. I'm open to loving anyone – but it's fair to say that I don't treat everyone the same. The love I have for dancers in the community is different for the love I have for my mom.
I'm a "good person" in "my own context"
through my dedication to the people that I love,
(not people in general)
based on how they want to be treated.
Is it because I'm Asian (collectivist culture) and my sense of "in-group" is strong AF? Doesn't really make sense because I didn't really grow up there... :thinking emoji:
Or maybe I'm just sOoOo loveless and stingy that I can't afford niceness to anyone other than those I love? But I am open to everyone, it just takes some time???
Orrr, DOES IT MAKE COMPLETE SENSE because even evolutionarily, we're taught to fend for ourselves and our tribes. If you tried to give to everyone equally (communism much?), a group of strangers might live a day longer, but your family lives a day shorter.
Who's a "good person" to me?
Someone who can defend and serve themselves & their people.
VI: Don't Be A Nice Person, Be A GOOD Person
I know I sound like a gigantic asshole. As if I don't care about anyone other than me & my own.
I do have basic respect and empathy for all living things. I stand by those I love in practical ways, not at the expense of others.
Friend 1: *talks shit about my Friend 2*
Nice Person: Hahahaha um.. yeah hah.
Good Person: Hey, that's not cool, she's my friend. If you have an issue with her maybe you can talk to her privately but I don't think it's right to bad-mouth her behind her back like this.
Good Person – No disrespect to Friend 1. Just saying what needs to be said.
Nice Person – Spinelessly avoiding any confrontation to keep peace in current situation, not in the full reality of situation.
I used to be such a people-pleaser. I never spoke up about things that mattered to me, or even defended those important to me – even myself. I would never take sick days or show that I was hurt when someone hurt me. I'd never say "no" to favors, no matter how outrageous they were and how much I had to sacrifice for someone that gave no shits.
I was way, way too nice.
On some level, I knew my "niceness" was a sign of emotional immaturity. I knew I was hurting people I loved (including myself) by not being able to assert my "goodness." To be there for me and the things that actually matter to me.
I'm not an asshole about it, but I say "no" now. Er – "no, thank you." And if someone hurts me or someone I love, I say something.
I don't think I'm a good person, but I try to choose good actions based on my hierarchy of goodness, where people I love always come first.
I'm not nice all the time, to everyone.
But I like myself better this way.