When I went to elementary school, the boys used to play “bumper cars”. For those who never played, it consisted on crossing our arms in front of our chest, as if in a self-hug, to make bumpers, and to run into each other. I don’t even remember if there were winners and losers, but at the time it seemed like fun and it happened often.
One day I, who was a weak-framed boy, had an unprecedented surge of strength and bumped into J., who was torn off the ground by both feet and landed under a table. My moment of glory lasted a few seconds because I realized that I had hurt him on the lip, and a sense of conquest was quickly replaced by immense guilt that made me conclude that I, who had always strived to be a good boy, was after all… bad!
I sat in the playground’s corner for the rest of the break (no donkey ears!), but the school staff lady told me she knew I hadn’t done it with intention, but I had to do the be punished to give the example that we have to be careful when we play.
Given that, I felt proud in fulfilling my role, and with that example of wisdom from an adult I learned that it wasn’t bad, even though I made something bad.
At that moment I had a privilege that not everyone has: I was dealt with like a good person who did a mistake out of unconsciousness and was told to be careful. Had it been my luck, and had been dealt with like a a dreadful boy, I might have grown to believe this impatient judgment and probably many moments of my life would have been conditioned by this experience.
By characterizing someone as “bad” you risk biased judgment because it is assumed that a specific behavior reflects all the personality characteristics of the other person.
Let me explain: There are few occasions when someone has a an attitude driven by bad intentions, especially children!
We can look upon evil as a human characteristic manifested in actions provoked by a destructive intention. It may happen in many forms and intensities, but the principle is this.
However, many of the actions that can be considered “bad” may result from lack of awareness or maturity, or may be having difficulty accepting the other person’s differences. This is a simple point, but it is crucial because it conditions how you react to the situation.
When you define someone for an action, you don’t approve you are making a generalisation and sentencing the other person, nullifying any prospect of resolving the conflict because it is assumed that the other person is not worth the investment!
However, explaining one’s point of view or what caused the displeasure gives the person an opportunity to realize the consequences of his action and opens up the opportunity of growing the relation. This attitude is important when dealing with children because they easily internalise the idea that they are bad if someone treats them as if they were in fact bad, since they are not mature enough to relativize the generalisation that may have been made with them.
Having a sympathetic attitude does not mean subjecting oneself to others, but adopting an adult stance that starts from the principle of pondering. It is an exercise in maturity that implies accepting that one does not own reason, and that the differences between each person are legitimate.
There are no perfectly good people, nor entirely bad people: there are different people and those who have not yet matured. In the middle there are some that have many destructive personality traits!
However, my relationship with J. survived; the friendship we had was strong enough, and he understood that my “aggression” was accidental!