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to to wonder when horrible people have to start taking responsibility for their actions?

(40 Posts)
AKMD Wed 12-Oct-11 09:50:21

Having been on MN for a while, I've definitely mellowed quite a bit because there always seems to be a possible extenuating circumstance behind people's bad behaviour, even if it stretches the imagination somewhat. For example, I understand having compassion for someone who was brought up in less than ideal conditions, but when does that person's behaviour become their own responsibility rather than that of their parents, who were probably brought up badly themselves? I remember when the Baby P case was in the media reading a column that said that, had Baby P survived, he would probably have grown up to be described as a 'feral yob' (or something like that) sad I see lots of posts on here where awful, nasty, disgusting behaviour is excused because of bad upbringings, addictions, pregnancy (?!), PND, work stress etc. and wonder where the point of tolerance ends. Example is the tenancy thread on at the moment over evicting a pregnant, non-paying tenant, who according to some posters should be allowed to stay on rent-free because of her pregnancy. Another one the other day was about someone's sister's behaviour, being excused by having been brought up in a separate house from her siblings by a father who abused her mother. Another one was where the OP's DD was being bullied by a girl with possible SN and, again, lots of posters were saying that the DD should put up with it because of the SN.

I'm rambling, but AIBU to wonder how lines are drawn between behaviour being excused because of 'extenuating circumstances' and being condemned as the person's own responsibility?

OTheHugeWerewolef Wed 12-Oct-11 09:55:41

I agree with you, AKMD, but I think you'll have an interesting time on this thread grin

CailinDana Wed 12-Oct-11 09:56:06

You might not know it but that's one of the perennial unanswerable philosophical questions - do we have free will? If you believe we do have free will then everyone is responsible for their own actions. I don't believe we have free will and so I'm stuck in a world where there's an explanation for everything. However, even in my chaotic world, lines have to be drawn. The law draws most of them, defining what murder, rape etc are and how and when someone is responsible and I believe on a personal level we draw our own lines in a way that suits us. So for example, my sister's behaviour might be unacceptable to many but I give her greater leeway as she is my source of comfort and support. As long as she doesn't break the law it's not for others to say that I am wrong and they are right.

aldiwhore Wed 12-Oct-11 09:56:30

The lines vary as much as the circumstances.

There are always reasons, but not excuses. There will be a understandable reason why many people do many things, but it does not excuse the outcome if someone else has suffered through it.

There are often mitigating circumstances.

The grey area in humanity is that colour for a reason, the lines of what is reasonable are always blurred. Compassion is important, compassion for all. Protection of the innocent, to prevent them becoming the guilty. Responsibility for others and oneself and respect and self-respect are very much out of kilter in the world.

OTheHugeWerewolef Wed 12-Oct-11 09:56:40

Martin Luther King said once upon a time

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I'm all for not judging people by the colour of their skin; but somewhere along the line we seem to have decided we can't judge people by the content of their character either, and I'm not sure that is such a good thing.

AKMD Wed 12-Oct-11 09:59:11

WereWolef I know! I did think twice before posting but decided to anyway as have been thinking this for ages. Decent philosophy akes a change from SAHM vs WOHM hmm anyway!

The responses so far have been very thought-provoking.

TurkeyBurgerThing Wed 12-Oct-11 10:03:21

YANBU there is too much political correctness, it's too easy it is to sue people, and we're probably just a stones throw away from even dogs being given "human rights".

I aslo feel we are now living in the Labelage. EVERYTHING needs to have a label, especially people who may 20 years ago have been classed as trouble makers.

Fuzzled Wed 12-Oct-11 10:09:04

There will always be reasons and excuses, but at the end of the day, we all have the choice whether or not to let our upbringing define us.

I have seen children with lovely (at least apparently so; closed doors and all that!) parents become nasty, spiteful people - and children with no home support (alcoholic parents, unwashed etc) turn out to be the nicest adults you could wish to meet.

Sometimes, reasons are mitigating circumstances - thieving as they've never been taught it's wrong or been brought up as this as a way of life; but I believe that no punishment is not an option, otherwise how do we learn, improve and grow as people.

ThePumpkinKing Wed 12-Oct-11 10:09:31

Do you know, it seems extraordinary, but sometimes people just don't know any better.

Their behaviour will not change because they have nothing to model it on. Every influence that they have been subjected to has taught them to behave the way that they do.

The examples that you give are very wide ranging, the reactions of the people involved will be influenced by many things.

But the 'feral yob' comment, sometimes people are subjected to such harsh treatment that they withdraw from normal social interaction.

Their lives are so full of fear that there is no room for empathy, or compassion, just a struggle to stay out of danger.
It makes people 'hard', and they are afraid that if they let their defences down, it gives people a chance to hurt them.

After a time, it becomes normal to 'get in there first', to protect the little they have, and the little they have, might be their very survival.

I think it comes down to fear. The pregnant woman is afraid of having nowhere to live, so they brazen it out, and say 'well, it's not my fault I can't pay the rent, let the landlord deal with it'.
In an ideal world, I'm sure they'd seem to be 'nicer' people if they had plenty of money, and no reason to fear homelessness.

People are funny, and some are in a better position to deal with everyday life others.

I don't know whether there is a difference between making allowances for people and making excuses. It might just be a question of perspective.

If you are fortunate, you can just walk away from people who are making your life unpleasant. If not, trying to understand their actions might make it easier, or make you feel better about stuff.

AKMD Wed 12-Oct-11 10:10:44

I think labelling is very useful if it can get people help that actually helps IYSWIM. If If it is a label to be used as an excuse, without doing anything at all to help the person correct their behaviour, then no, I don't think it's helpful, but I had a thread on that before about people self-diagnosing that threw up all sorts of interesting points (and I learned a lot about migraines!) smile If a label helps other people to understand behaviour beyond someone's control and plan for it, then again, it is helpful to a point.

MamaMaiasaura Wed 12-Oct-11 10:11:12

YANBU - there is a fantastic book I read called counselling for toads. General gist is about tsing responsibility or ones own actions and emotions rather than placing blame on others or circumstances. Really really shitty things happen in life and how the individual deals with that is down to them. For me, I had to come to terms with a fair few things I do not want to go into on here but I had to deal with how I was going to o forward in life and what I was going to take from the experiences and how it could affect my choices in life.

I could have gone the other way and blamed bad stuff in past for not moving forward. Fuck that tho, I'm going to be happy and live a good life inspite of sd experiences smile

MamaMaiasaura Wed 12-Oct-11 10:11:32

Taking not tsing

MamaMaiasaura Wed 12-Oct-11 10:12:26

And bad no sd. Silly me

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 12-Oct-11 10:12:31

I don't know where the lines are drawn either. I know we all get confused when someone acts extremely badly despite having had what are, on paper, none of the normal triggers that are used to excuse it. It kind of threw us this summer to discover that some of the looting yobbos rampaging through various cities were not from deprived backgrounds or lacking in opportunities. It didn't fit with the received wisdom, prejudice or stereotype

Judge everything and everyone on their merits rather than making allowances based on assumptions. Then we'd get closer to being even-handed.

NorfolkBroad Wed 12-Oct-11 10:13:24

I know what you mean AKMD. I have always tried to "think the best" of people and to look at why they are behaving the way they are. When I met my DP she had a VERY different take on the situation. She was badly abused as a child both physically and emotionally and after going through a very tough time as a teenager (in a boarding school on another continent) she decided she would not be a victim or ever use her upbringing as an excuse for bad behaviour. As a result she cannot stand to hear others using this as their excuse. Also, she was brought up in a very different culture where "justice" is swift and unforgiving.

I haven't changed the way I look at things completely, I still hope I am compassionate towards others and mindful of their backgrounds but her strength and determination has really inspired me and I that not only is it not always "right" to excuse bad behaviour it is also unproductive. However, it all depends on the circumstances and you could find many arguments for both sides!

lesley33 Wed 12-Oct-11 10:15:07

I agree with you. I work with "challenging" families. Sometimes you can see the reason someone's behaviour is the way it is, but at the end of the day that person has still chosen somewhere along the line to behave in that way.

I think poor environments/bad upbringings affect everyone. But how it affects them is down to each individual's personality and choices. For example, someone brought up with abusive parents may be abusive parents themselves; or may be afraid to tell their DCs off for fear of being abusive; or may decide not to have DCs because they don't think they could be a good parent, etc. Different choices from the same scenario.

I remember reading a psychologists book about major serial criminals e.g. serial murderers,rapists, etc. He talked about interviewing for a probation report someone with a history of very serious assaults. He asked the crininal why he had done those things. The criminal trotted out the explanation of his abusive background. The psychologist said to him do you think others have similar backgrounds? Answer - yes. Question - Do you think others who have had similar abusive backgrounds went on to regularly carry out serious attacks on people. A - No. Question - So what is it about you that made you carry out these attacks?

And there is the million dollar question imo.

punkinpie Wed 12-Oct-11 10:16:20

Interesting thread. The idea of taking personal responsibility does seem to have got completely lost. It was quite fashionable in the sixties/seventies, but now the culture seems to be that if you're accused of something, you either blame someone else, or blame your circumtances, thus absolving yourself of all responsibility.

You never say: I realise I was wrong; I won't do it again.

Politicians are of course the worst offenders. They are never responsible for anything.

LaurieFairyCake Wed 12-Oct-11 10:18:34

I am responsible for my actions however it doesn't mean there isn't an explanation for my behaviour or a reason why I act in a certain way.

I am responsible for punching my husband when I was having a terrible nightmare but for the explanation for the awful nightmare you'd have to go back to my childhood and the abuse I suffered.

I cannot undo the past but as a counsellor I have to learn to live with it and try and keep myself in good mental health.

This does not mean some warped idea of perfection but just a real person who sometimes struggles with a past - it's an ongoing project. And who sometimes exhibits challenging behaviour and who has difficults thoughts and actions - some of which harms others emotionally.

lesley33 Wed 12-Oct-11 10:19:42

I do think we should be forgiving for minor transgressions though. Grumpy mood, insensitive comment, etc, as long as this isn't how the person is all the time.

Occasionally I am shocked on here at the small transgressions that people take major offence at. We are all human, and all sometimes say things we shouldn't.

LaurieFairyCake Wed 12-Oct-11 10:21:17

There is no magic 'age' either when someone becomes responsible - apart from legally.

A child abused does not automatically turn into a child abuser when they reach their 16th birthday - though they may become at some point legally culpable.

There is often very little compassion - it might be better to hate the act but attempt to understand the person and circumstances around it. And that includes the entirely warped and distorted people surrounding the baby p case.

punkinpie Wed 12-Oct-11 10:22:11

LaurieFairyCake, but you are taking responsibility for your actions. You're not turning it round and claiming your dh deserved to be punched and therefore you're not sorry.

AKMD Wed 12-Oct-11 10:24:16

YY the small transgressions make me smile sometimes, although I can see why they would be aggravating and repeated over a long period of time would drive me bonkers too.

thefirstMrsDeVeerie Wed 12-Oct-11 10:27:05

I think that we sometimes confuse undertanding the reasons for behaviour with excusing it.

If we understand why it can be easier to deal with. It doesnt mean we have to condone it. It seems crazy to wave aside childhood abuse and mental illness when it can have a huge impact on why someone behaves the way they do.

I also think that there are two sides to every story and perhaps the person who feels they are the victim dismisses the 'excuses' for the other party's behaviour so they can carry on being aggrieved.

'that person was mean to me, they are being rude, they hate me, wah wah wah'
That person is doesnt even know you exist at the moment, they are dealing with a huge pile of stuff that you cant even imagine. Stop being a drama queen and get on with your life.

I agree with the pp that said people seem to get offended at the most trivial things. Actually I think they always did but now they get to air these feeling on the internet so we all know about it.

RunnerHasbeen Wed 12-Oct-11 10:27:39

I think it is important to separate out the explanation from assigning blame, quite often threads are based around the premise that the OP can't imagine behaving that way themselves. In that case, it does make sense to point out that they don't know the entire situation of the person involved. Does something being understandable make it okay - no, it doesn't, but it does give us as a society something practical we can do about it other than write people off. People who abuse children do not get off with carrying out abuse themselves, but understanding the risk factors behind someone becoming an abuser is important. It is also important to remember this is a forum with very small amounts of background information and one sided stories, so people are given the benefit of the doubt more than they are in real life.

I think the way people are treated when their own behaviour is poor, shows that it is more about tact than lack of personal responsibility, hence the term "flaming".

LaurieFairyCake Wed 12-Oct-11 10:34:48

Yes, but I'm not a 'horrible' person because I commit terrible acts. I think it's about separating out the person from the act.

All cruel acts can be explained and understood but it doesn't meant they aren't responsible. Baby P's mother was found responsible for her actions - doesn't mean we can't explain them.

I think what people sometimes say is that they think the 'explanation' somehow undermines the act -which is why we get a lot of picthfork waving grin

baby's P grandmnother for all we know bears some moral responsibility for raising a child who committed those terrible acts - don't we all for what our children do if we've done it wrong?

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