We often downplay our capacity for evil.
We do it every time we explain people doing terrible things by insisting they must be ignorant, mentally ill or subhuman. And it’s understandable: the darker parts of ourselves are—well, dark.
Easier to turn away than face that head-on.
But to turn from our dark side is to turn from all of our self. To shut off our capacity for pain is to also shut off our capacity for joy. And so long as we downplay our potential for evil, we will struggle to unlock our full capacity for good.
It all comes down to choice.
If creativity can be a choice, then so can destructiveness, to others or to our own selves. But if that option is off the table, it’s off both ways.
SwitchfootThe shadow proves the sunshine
We undermine the humanity of others when we don’t recognise their agency—their innate human ability to take responsibility for their actions and their outcomes.
But we undermine ours as well, because denying others the agency to choose chaos often comes from denying ours.
Owning up to it, however, for both ourselves and others, surprisingly allows us be more compassionate. Because those who own their dark sides are only too familiar with how easy it is to give in to it. That’s why the kindest people are among the most self-aware.
They’ve learned to protect others from the worst of themselves.