Someone recently asked me if I think that bad people can change. My first consideration is always hope that change is possible for anyone and everyone. That may be naïve, but I’d rather pose the question, can bad people change through better decision making?
The initial posit is how you define bad people. There is a wide spectrum of acts that society views as bad. We can all agree that taking another’s life is a bad thing. The conditions under how that happens is something else. Sometimes the act is accidental, as in an automobile accident. At other times it is a crime of passion where momentary decisions made via temporal feelings leave lasting consequences. And in other instances, it is premeditated and planned out. Each of these cases offers a different value of badness where the act is concerned.
Now imagine the driver in the automobile accident killed someone who was crossing the street against the traffic light on a dark rainy night. The accidental killing appears forgivable and not executed by a bad person. But what if you add an additional factor, that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol? A bad decision, creating a ripple effect of long-term consequences, does that make the driver a bad person?
The point is bad actions and bad people are the result of bad decisions. Choosing a particular path consistently, takes you farther and farther down that path, creating bad people out of a series of bad decisions.
Two paths diverged in the woods and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. – Robert FrostTweet
Decisions often seem to come in two choices. There is this way or that when standing at the fork in the road. The first time you decide to imbibe in illicit drugs, or smoke that first cigarette, or stay with that abusive lover, sets you on the path to misery. The more you continue to choose that path the more misery you encounter. And though you know your choice is creating your misery you continue to make the bad decision.
As human beings our decision making is extremely emotional. The drug makes us feel good, the cigarette helps us feel relaxed, we feel sorry for and feel love for our abusive lover, and thus due to these feel good feelings, continue to make bad decisions that hurt us. Of course, all these scenarios have an addictive component that perpetuates the bad decision making.
It is not until we make a conscious choice to avoid or abstain from the bad decision that we finally begin to create a new path toward our own joy and happiness.
At this stage I must note that we are not discussing brain science or mental wellness, but are solely focused on decision making.
What triggers that change is our thinking process. Thoughts are everything. When you believe that you can overcome the difficulty and make better decisions you create a better path for your own life. The catalyst is sometimes pain, which outweighs the good feeling, the relaxed feeling, the feeling of love. Our pain draws us closer to making better decisions so that we can eliminate the bad feeling of pain, shame, guilt. At other times the catalyst is simply wanting something better for ourselves. And thus, we continue to make decisions that lead us toward the better destination we envision.
The struggle really is real.
It all comes down to how we think and therefore the choices we make. Consider the consequences your decisions have on others and yourself. It is definitely not easy, but making better decisions is what makes us better people and that’s how we RISE.
What do you think? Can bad people change? What makes people bad? And can simple small shifts in decision making turn things around?