Why Good People Can Do Awful Things and Why They May Ignore the Bad

Why Good Folks Can Do Terrible Issues and Why They Might Ignore the Dangerous


Kristin Meekhof

Supply: Kristin Meekhof

As a fulltime secret keeper, an occasional psychological well being speaker, and author, I’ve heard 1000’s of dangerous tales. These narratives vary from deep secrets and techniques to traumatic life occasions, similar to experiencing sexual abuse, to much less dangerous issues like being upset with a neighbor for creating an unsightly outside playspace. And, but, what appears most troubling is when others know one thing dangerous has occurred or is going on (like sexual harassment at work) and so they proceed with “enterprise as typical.”

One well-known enterprise that saved working with “enterprise as typical” regardless of being advised of the damaging results their merchandise had on individuals was the tobacco trade. You might be questioning, How might management go onward understanding their merchandise harmed their customers and people round them?

Ethical Disengagement

One of many pioneers in psychology, Dr. Albert Bandura (he died in 2021), would probably inform you it is because of one thing referred to as “ethical disengagement.”

Dr. Bandura coined this concept and wrote a guide with the identical title. Briefly, it states that an individual convinces themselves that the principles in a specific moral scenario merely don’t apply. The method by which somebody could do this may be seen as intellectualizing the circumstance or rationalizing it and even blaming others. Worse but, they could dehumanize somebody or reduce the struggling others are experiencing or will expertise.

A well-liked instance is dishonest. As a scholar, you have been up late since you have been serving to a sick mum or dad. On the final minute, you could not pull collectively the sources wanted to finish the project so that you “borrowed” another person’s phrases, took credit score for them, and submitted them as your individual. You might even justify this motion by saying your father wanted your help.

Whereas doing analysis for my guide, I interviewed greater than 100 ladies about their experiences with loss and grief. And it wasn’t typical for a girl to say, “I’m telling you one thing I’ve advised nobody.”

Earlier than sharing the key or secrets and techniques, many occasions, the ladies would both say, “I do know this sounds dangerous however I…” or “I’m justifying this by…”

The secrets and techniques typically contained components of inauspicious feelings, similar to not feeling devastated when their partner or companion died as a result of they did not have a satisfying relationship, or untruthful actions, similar to dishonest on their partner or companion.

Perpetuating Unethical and Immoral Conduct

In these situations and in others, Dr. Bandura says individuals use the “ethical disengagement” course of to cowl their actions, and this will perpetuate unethical and immoral habits. This course of could seem to be it’s an excuse to let others off the hook for his or her questionable actions. And, to be clear, Dr. Bandura wasn’t saying it’s OK for others to lie and commit unethical and violent acts. As an alternative, Dr. Bandura was giving a concept as to why some good individuals could do dangerous issues and go on residing with their actions with out feeling a lot guilt or empathy for the injured social gathering, or why they could look the opposite approach when one thing violent or unkind occurs.

The place we stand on a specific scenario, whether or not or not it’s a political or non-public one, can decide what we see, and the way we give it some thought can encourage us to behave.

Dr. Bandura says this in his guide (as quoted in The Helper’s Journey):

The sense of widespread humanity is developed by way of shared relational experiences that hyperlink one’s personal well-being to the well-being of others. Dedication to humanitarian causes better than oneself can additional construct commonalities. These interpersonal situations are important to the event of inclusive, socially simply, and humane societies.


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