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People never contradict themselves (everybody makes perfect sense)

A person’s behavior, however apparently irrational, is the most logical, sane, and sensible course of action given their internal representations of the world.

People don’t contradict themselves (even the ones who do the opposite of what they say). They only contradict our attempts to understand them.

“You aren’t making any sense” is usually just an ineffective way of saying “I don’t get where you’re coming from.”

This distinction is not merely a conceptual one. It has significant emotional and creative implications.

The belief that a person is contradicting themselves is usually accompanied by a spiteful or dismissive attitude. The creative intelligence necessary to resolve conflicts is rarely active when such a belief is present.

The belief that people ultimately make sense leads not only to an increased ability to be patient and tolerant in one’s dealings with “difficult” people, but it also makes the discovery of practical solutions and compromises infinitely more likely.

That’s today’s two sense 😉

Cheers,

T.K. Coleman

This Post Has 17 Comments
  1. Hey T.K., I’m not sure about this one. I have been taken advantage of on a number of occasions by people who I’ll call “con artists”. in all cases what they said and their behavior were incongruent. They did not match and that was very confusing for me. I have learned to look for such contradictions, or incongruencies between words and behavior as red flags for me to know someone may be trying to take advantage of me. I’d give an example, but these were extremely bad experiences and I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to publish any of them on your blog. Just wanting to know your thoughts, given what you wrote in today’s blog.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Audrey,

      Thanks for your thought-provoking and well-articulated feedback. I have a great deal of appreciation for the discernment and discretion you exercise in your dealings with people who evince incongruencies between their words and actions. It has taken me many years and much inner work to arrive at a place in my life where I can successfully manage my interactions with manipulators, invalidators, and deceivers.

      I should probably begin my making explicit a fundamental assumption I have about people’s inconsistencies. It is as follows: The belief that people are rational beings whose choices are driven by a coherent internal logic is not tantamount to endorsing their behavior. For instance, our capacity to understand the psychology behind why a high-school bully picks on his classmates, does not make it morally acceptable for the bully to engage in acts of abuse. An explanation is not an excuse. Moreover, victims should always have the right to seek help or defend themselves regardless of the explanations one may conjure in an effort to comprehend the victimizer. Wherever abuse it happening, it ought to be stopped (no matter what the abuser’s logic happens to be).

      With that being said, here’s my two cents on your comments and concerns:

      I’ve met a lot of “idiots” in my life, but none of them were “idiots” in their own eyes. Everyone one of those “idiots” had a story to tell. And while their stories didn’t make them any less of an “idiot” to me, my understanding of their internal logic gave me access to a broader range of options in my dealings with them. By learning to see their idiocy from the inside out, I discovered the secrets of forgiving them without condoning them; coexisting with them without being harmed by them; and most importantly bringing out the best in some of them when no one thought there was any good in them. Eventually I was able to release my need to label them. They were who they were. I was who I was. And in the absence of judgement, I was able to get down to the real business of life; creating my reality as I intended it to be.

      A former employer of mine was fond of saying “we judge other people by their actions, but other people judge themselves by their intentions.”Let’s take liars for instance: from the vantage point of the person being lied to, the liar is a walking contradiction. He says one thing and does the opposite. It’s pretty cut and dry from the perspective of the offended party.

      But what about the liar’s perspective? Does he see himself in the same manner that the victim of his deceit does? Is the liar playing by the same laws of logic that his critics are playing by? Does the liar agree with the victim’s definition of what a “contradiction” is?

      Liars, while being known for their outward inconsistencies, often feel very justified in their ways. It is not uncommon for manipulators and con artists to see themselves as the true victims. After all, they are the ones who are “forced” to do “necessary” acts of evil in order to get by in a “dog eat dog” world that rarely plays fair. If you let the liars tell their story, their outward contradictions are just evidence of the creativity, intelligence, and determination of someone who’s just doing what it takes to survive in a chaotic and cruel world.

      I have confronted people in the past for cheating others and I’ve heard responses like “Well, that’s just the way the world works. You can’t feel sorry for people or you’ll just end up being one of the nice guys that gets crushed.” That’s not the only rationale I’ve heard for manipulation, but the basic idea here is that their behavior perfectly matches their worldview. If you are a person who sincerely believes things like “nice guys finish last” or “you have to be a jerk if you want to get ahead in life” or “you’re a loser if you don’t have a certain income” or “people wont respect you unless they fear you” or “It’s smart to tell lies and play games just so you don’t become too predictable” or “people who are stupid enough to get ripped off deserve to get ripped off” or “If somebody hurts me, then I have the right to hurt somebody else” or “Sometimes you have to do bad things in order to get attention” or “you have to take advantage of people before they take advantage of you”, then certain kinds of behavior are going to automatically follow until those beliefs and internal representations change. Again, that does not mean that manipulative behavior is okay. It just means that manipulative behavior is the logical outworking of a belief system/worldview that sees manipulation as a sensible or necessary thing to do.

      When dealing with “difficult” people, sometimes the best solution is to cut ties and get out of the situation. But since all relationships have difficulties and since cutting ties is not always an option, it’s inevitable that we develop our ability to bring out the best in others—or to at least creatively resolve the conflicts we have with them. Treating people like they are fundamentally irrational beings makes it extremely difficult to do that.

      Gosh…I’ve written a lot here. I’d better take a chill pill. Hopefully I haven’t given you too much of a mouthful. Let me know your thoughts (if it feels good and stress-free to do so).

      Cheers,

      T.K.

      1. Hey T.K., Please, no need to take a chill pill. I loved your response. It clarified completely where you were coming from in your blog and made complete sense. Stating your fundamental assumption, “The belief that people are rational beings whose choices are driven by a coherent internal logic is not tantamount to endorsing their behavior”, really helped me understand all that you are saying. I think that for me, there are times when I mix together the person with their irrational behavior and conclude that it is not just the way he/she acts that is irrational, but that he/she is at the core irrational. Your is a very thought-provoking belief and I hear the rebuttals in my head saying, but but but….and at the same time, I get it. This part of what you wrote very much interests me, “By learning to see their idiocy from the inside out, I discovered the secrets of forgiving them without condoning them, coexisting without being harmed by them; and most importantly, bringing out the best in them when no one thought there was any good in them.” I have not discovered these secrets and am so curious to know what your experiences were that led you to discover them. The piece I have the most difficulty with, I have in relation to one person who hurt me in a way that practically destroyed me. Forgiveness. I am curious to know how you define forgiveness, because perhaps it will help me to reach that place of forgiving this man without condoning what he did. I have done a good job of moving on with my life for the most part, but there is still inside me a desire to “exact revenge”. Not something I would ever do, but that desire is there, instead of desire to forgive. The way that I look at forgiveness is that it comes when a person is ready, so I guess i haven’t been ready. But it would definitely help me to understand your perspective on forgiveness.
        And in relation to others, I would love to be able to co-exist without being harmed and to learn how to bring out the best in even those who seem to “have no good in them”.
        I am saving your response, because I found it so clear and insightful and helpful. Thanks once again, T.K. Thanks for understanding and thanks for sharing your perspective in a way that nearly completely turns things around for me in my own perspective on human beings and their behavior! i say nearly completely because I am still in the process of working things out within me in relation to the man I mentioned.
        Cheers! 🙂

        1. Hi Audrey,

          1) Thanks for writing me back and 2) Thanks for being encouraging and affirming

          These most recent comments really made me think. The philosopher Augustine of Hippo was once asked “what is time?” He replied, “If you don’t ask me, I know what time is. If you ask me what time is, I no longer know.” I feel a little bit like this when it comes to the concept of “forgiveness.” I feel that I have genuinely experienced “forgiveness” in my life from both perspectives (the forgiver and the forgiven), but when I think conceptually about what I mean by the word, it gets a little tricky (although not tiring or stressful) to think about. You’ve challenged me, in a good way, to think more explicitly about what’s going inside of me when I forgive someone. This process of introspection has helped me clarify some of my thoughts and feelings around the subject. I definitely have some thoughts, but much of what I say will be me expressing these ideas for the first time. So be patient with me as I think out loud with you here. The offline world demands my attention for the evening, but I will share my thoughts on the business of forgiveness on tomorrow. I look forward to it. Few things are more enjoyable to me than conversations and sessions of contemplation that lead to great clarity–and ultimately, greater peace of mind. Thanks for prompting this.

          Cheers 🙂

          T.K.

        2. Hi Audrey,

          You may want to grab a cup of coffee for this one. It’s a bit long-winded.

          I should begin by thanking you for igniting this process. The introspection involved has been helpful to me.

          Here’s a peek at my inner process of moving from a state of resentment to forgiveness:

          I couldn’t gain any ground by trying to figure out what forgiveness means to me, so I took a backwards approach by sorting out what I am experiencing when I feel resentful towards someone. By doing that, I was able to understand “forgiveness” as the experience of defeating, transcending, or softening the elements which define “resentment” for me.

          I’ve identified 5 elements which seem to be present whenever I am in a resentful state. Sometimes all of these elements are present. At other times, it’s a combination of two or more. The combination of time, reflection, and experience allows me to loosen the grip that these elements have on me. Sometimes one or more of these elements will persist over a long period of time, but it is only necessary that I loosen their grip enough to “let it go” and move on.

          It’s important to note that I am not attempting to give an objective definition of what forgiveness is all about. This is a working expression of my own personal understanding based on introspection. I hope my thoughts can help shed some light on your own unique process.
          The 5 elements present when I am unforgiving are as follows:

          1. The desire for justice: This usually expresses itself in the form of my wanting to see my offender suffer or experience payback in some fashion. It can be colloquially expressed as the fulfillment of a personal fantasy in which my victimizer experiences a similar kind of injustice as the one they inflicted upon me, giving me the satisfaction of saying or thinking “that’s what you get”, “you reap what you sow”, or “karma is a $%&#$, aint it?”

          2. The desire to receive an apology and/or see evidence of remorse: This usually expresses itself in the form of my wanting them to explicitly state “I was wrong”, ask or beg for my forgiveness, or at least give some kind of indication that they feel genuine guilt or sorrow over the harm they caused me.

          3. The belief that they have ruined my life OR set me back OR made my journey more inconvenient in some way OR forced me to undergo hardship against my own free-will: To state it another way, when I feel bitter or resentful towards someone, the following belief is usually present: The quality of my life would likely be better off had they not harmed or inconvenienced me in the particular way that they did. The less this belief is present, the less likely I am to be bitter. For instance, If someone steps on my toe, I may get really irritated, but the implications of the experience are so short-lived that it’s useless getting too worked up over. If they step on my toe AND break my foot in the process, forgiveness may be harder to come by since it would be tempting for me to believe that this person is now forcing me to suffer a variety of difficulties that I wouldn’t have to deal with if they hadn’t injured me.

          4. The underlying conviction that “I would never do something like that”: When I feel bitter, it is usually over harmful or hurtful actions that I can neither relate to nor imagine myself doing to another. To the degree that I can empathize and sympathize with the offenders behavior, even though it may be wrong, I may feel less bitterness than when I unable to feel empathy or sympathy. For instance, if someone lies to me because they were afraid that I would negatively judge them, I might be more forgiving because I have done this to others multiple times in my past (although I don’t condone it). If, on the other hand, someone stops talking to me because of my political or religious beliefs, I may be more likely to consider their offense “unforgiveable” because this is something that I have never done to anyone before and I can’t even imagine doing that to someone. In both cases, I would still be hurt, but the degree of resentment would vary with my ability to relate with where they were coming from.

          5. A strong belief in the “rightness of my judgment” and the “thoroughness of my investigation.”: Here’s what I mean by this: If I have a hard time forgiving someone, my mind is usually made up about that person, their actions, and its implications. I am very very very confident that I understand everything I need to understand about the situation and how it affects me. I am typically closed to the notion that there is anything significant I am overlooking or underestimating. In fact, I may be inclined to regard that possibility as offensive and as threatening to fact that I have the right to be upset.

          As you know, the process of letting go is not a mechanical one that we can force ourselves through. However, over time, I’ve developed enough familiarity with my own mind to figure out ways of “getting inside of my own head” and “tinkering with my perceptions.”

          For me, forgiveness is the relative effect of being able to defeat, transcend, or soften these elements. Tomorrow, I’ll write more and share some of the perspectives that help me soften the resistance that’s rooted in these 5 elements.

          I hope I am being clear here. Feel free to question, challenge, or offer any feedback on what I’ve written so far.

          Thanks for taking the time to read all this.

          Cheers,

          TK

        3. Hi Audrey,

          I’m back for the next round.

          In my last post I wrote:

          The 5 elements present when I am unforgiving are as follows:

          1. The desire for justice: This usually expresses itself in the form of my wanting to see my offender suffer or experience payback in some fashion. It can be colloquially expressed as the fulfillment of a personal fantasy in which my victimizer experiences a similar kind of injustice as the one they inflicted upon me, giving me the satisfaction of saying or thinking “that’s what you get”, “you reap what you sow”, or “karma is a $%&#$, aint it?”

          So, here are some of the thoughts I have about this first element:

          I typically deal with this element of resistance by reminding myself of the following: People who harm others are doing so because they are operating from a level of consciousness that is characterized by a sense of lack, powerlessness, and alienation. People who are living life at this level of consciousness are already suffering. As Reverend Run says “hurt people hurt people.” No one who is truly fulfilled or comfortable with themselves can feel the need to harm others. One can only feel motivated to do harm when he or she is in a dark or vulnerable place. I release my need to see Karma “get” my enemies because I know that their conflict-based paradigm compels them to experience the universe in a way that matches their lower vibration.
          People who do harm to others usually appear to be very calloused, powerful, and in control. I’ve done enough personal research into the topic of manipulators, victimizers, and invalidators (as part of my own journey of healing) to be convinced that the inward truth of what they really feel never matches their outward appearance of being cool, calm, and collected. When I feel resentful, I loosen the grip this particular element has on me by reminding myself of various examples of this.

          The notion of the bad guy who “gets away with evil” is a persistent myth. It can take a lot of probing and skeptical inquiry to undermine a belief in this myth. People who harm others may “get away with it” in the sense of not going to jail or escaping with the money or never having to face external punishment, but they still have to live with the internal reality of who they are. And no matter how tough they try to act, I am convinced that anybody who genuinely believes that you have to take advantage of others to get by in the world, is someone who does not feel safe, secure, and at peace in this universe. So, the first stage of my “letting go” process involves using skeptical objections, past experiences, other stories, meditation, and insights from psychology to release my belief that this person needs to suffer and to remind myself that they are experiencing the consequences of their actions in a variety of ways and on a daily basis.

          I’ll move on to the next element Tomorrow. Off to the movies with my best friend. Have a great weekend. Cheers 🙂

          P.S. I hope this is helpful or beneficial in some way.

          1. Thanks so much T.K. for your detailed and thorough responses and explanations in relation to the questions I posed. In relation to most all of the hurts I have sustained in my life, everything you say makes sense and brings a sense of relief and new perspective on those events.
            But in relation to the man who I said hurt me in a way that nearly destroyed me, it is hard for me to. My resistance comes right up to the surface. Since you have been so forthcoming, I will tell you what happened and hope that you don’t mind that this gets published on your blog comments thread. I’m assuming you can delete the reply or not post it if you want or need to.
            I will give you the short version. In Fall of 1990, I was raped by a minister I had gone to for counseling on issues of childhood sexual abuse. I did not have a support system that enabled me to stand up to him and take him to trial at the time, so he walks free in the world. I have suffered from PTSD since that time, though symptoms are much less now. The “I create my own reality” philosophy brings up tremendous resistance because I feel I did nothing to cause him to do what he did. The idea that he is suffering as much as or more than me also brings the resistance right to the forefront. Not only was it a humiliating and horrifying and horrific experience, but healing from it has been much more than extremely difficult. Making sense out of it, I don’t know if I ever will. I still feel a great deal of anger about it and hatred towards this supposedly pious man. It no longer occupies my thoughts so much of the time, but both the anger and hatred surface whenever I think about it or write about it or read about it in something I have written or hear about other women/children/men who have been raped. I have made tremendous strides in moving on, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive this man. I don’t want to put you on the spot with this, but if you do have any thoughts you’d like to share about this, I’d be thankful to read them.
            Thanks, T.K.

            1. Hi Audrey,

              Please pardon my delay.

              I’m genuinely sorry you’ve been through that and I can understand why the resistance comes up when you think of this person. An issue like this is so delicate that I’m not so sure if I would have wrote what I wrote had I heard your story first. The gravity of the incident makes my prior reflections appear to be child’s play. This is certainly a tougher and more complex kind of challenge to sort through. With that being said, I am both humbled and honored that you would share that aspect of your journey with me. I have a lot of respect for you and the fact that you have willed to survive.

              I do not feel as if you’re putting me on the spot. I enjoy the challenge of sifting through life’s perplexities in an effort to find insights that could help myself and others. What’s important to me here is that I am sensitive and unpresumptuous in my musings on this matter. Positivity platitudes have a way of sounding grossly oversimplified in the face of traumatic events and I wish to avoid that.

              I do have some thoughts and I will be parceling them out bit by bit if that is okay.

              I am literally updating, revising, and refining my concept of forgiveness as I go along here.

              One of the questions/thoughts that’s coming to mind right now is this: Must a viable concept of forgiveness involve the releasing of all negative emotions? Here’s where I’m coming from with this: I strongly believe in the idea that our feelings function as an emotional guidance system of sorts. Our so-called negative emotions are energetic indicators letting us know that the object of our focus is inconsistent with our preferences, priorities, and principles. For instance, when I hear the news report of a murder, I feel bad. In a sense, this propensity to feel bad when I hear a tragic report is a healthy thing. If I tried to force myself to feel good while being focused on tragedy, I might lose my ability to distinguish what is right for me from what is not right for me. In essence, I would be throwing out my compass just because I was displeased with the feedback it offered me. I say this because I have trouble with the idea that forgiveness should involve you being able to think about this person’s act of violence without feeling any resistance. That resistance you feel could be construed as the voice of your inner being saying “this is wrong.” Perhaps the goal should be to get to a place where you’re able to have more control over the frequency with which you relive the moment and over the aspects of the situation you focus on. This may be a fuzzy concept here as I am thinking out loud. Let me try an example from my life. I remember when my best friend died of a seizure at age 21 while playing a game of baskeyball. Whenever I go back to the moment it happened, I instantly tear up and feel many of the emotions I felt at the time. I NEVER smile, laugh, or feel cheerful when I think about “the moment.” And quite frankly, I don’t think I ever want to react that way to my thoughts of “the moment.” That moment is simply not funny to me. Additionally, my happiness does not involve the experience of being “free” from the capacity to “go there” every once in awhile and relive the emotions surrounding that event. For me, healing has not taken the form of being able to feel happy or numb about “the moment.” I feel like this may be an important area to explore because the process of trying to achieve an impossible or unhealthy goal might exhaust the very resources needed to attain what is truly needed. I think there’s a difference between trying to conjure positive/loving/gracious feelings towards someone versus getting to a place where the distasteful feelings we honestly experience are not dominating our consciousness at every turn. What happens when we allow ourselves to hate what we hate without judging ourselves for it and without feeling the need to change that? In cases where we are not able to transform hate into love, is it possible to gain control in other ways? Is it possible to hate what we hate but, in a way that’s not delusional, find ways to control, influence, or minimize the manner in which the energy of hate affects us? This is what I am contemplating right now? I will take this into further meditation. Any thoughts on your end for now? No pressure.

              1. Hi T.K., I am glad you do not feel put on the spot and I truly appreciate your taking on the challenge to contemplate and help me make sense of what forgiveness might look like in the face of what I’ve been through. What you wrote about the possibility of not having to change what I feel when the thought of what happened comes up without those thoughts and feelings “dominating at every turn” is very helpful. I have been so resistant to the idea of forgiving that man because in the past my idea of forgiveness involved having to let go of any hatred and feeling the love for him. But that just doesn’t work for me. So your proposing that I may still feel hatred in a moment of reflection is very freeing. I certainly don’t want my thoughts to be dominated with the events of what happened—I’ve been through that, a time when I had flashbacks nearly continuously, but I’ve healed beyond that, thankfully. Again, I truly appreciate your reflecting on and helping me with this. It helps me feel less alone with all of it and that is a gift. So thank you, T.K.

        4. Hello again Audrey,

          As I promised yesterday, here’s me moving on to the next element. I am actually going to skip to #3 since #2 and #1 typically go hand in hand for me.

          Here’s my third element of resentment:

          The belief that they have ruined my life OR set me back OR made my journey more inconvenient in some way OR forced me to undergo hardship against my own free-will. To state it another way, when I feel bitter or resentful towards someone, the following belief is usually present: The quality of my life would likely be better off had they not harmed or inconvenienced me in the particular way that they did. The less this belief is present, the less likely I am to be bitter. For instance, If someone steps on my toe, I may get really irritated, but the implications of the experience are so short-lived that it’s useless getting too worked up over. If they step on my toe AND break my foot in the process, forgiveness may be harder to come by since it would be tempting for me to believe that this person is now forcing me to suffer a variety of difficulties that I wouldn’t have to deal with if they hadn’t injured me.

          This particular one can be tricky to get around because it seems pretty cut & dry. Nothing could be more obvious to the offended party than the fact that their lives would have been easier had the offense not been committed against them. Part of my approach for undermining this element is expressed in the blog post I wrote today: Having it easier isn’t the same as having it better. I usually remind myself that, although my life may now be more difficult as a result of the offence against me, the overall quality of my existence will be richer because of the manner in which the experience causes me to evolve. Eagles learn how to fly by being forced out of their nest in a way that is very frightening and uncomfortable. Although they feel as if they are going to die, the desperate struggle to grasp air reveals a hidden ability that would have never otherwise been discovered. One could say the eagle’s difficulty was the very thing needed to bring out its full potential. Here’s another layer….I watched a film where a guy was badly betrayed by a close friend he really trusted. The act of betrayal cost him his career and reputation. When the offender finally apologized, the victim said the following: “you didn’t do this to me. I did this to me–not consciously, but subconsciously I drew you into my experience so that through you I could exercise my demons.” That line never left me. I understand that this whole “we create our own reality” philosophy is quite controversial and offensive to some. For me, it has been extremely helpful because it helps me to see myself as the one who is always in the position of power in my life. I have conditioned my mind to interpret all forms of hardship as instances in which my higher self/transpersonal essence is manifesting the exact experience I need in order to further evolve. This does not mean, however, that I allow people to walk over me. This perspective only applies to things I cannot change. Still thinking out loud here. More later…

      2. People always contradict themselfs ,whether it’s the stigmatiser or the deluded folk,wake
        Up and understand life your website blog is pathetic …….

        1. Dear Rich:

          Yes, people are contradicting to themselves, but to up and say that this blog is pathetic is a tad rude. Granted, I agree that this comment is completely your own opinion and you are entitled to your word, but shall I contridict myself by saying that I believe you are wrong, sir. Tough-Minded Optimism is for those that are capable of undersatnding the creativity of themselves and of those whom surround them; therefore, making it a grand blog, in my opinion and that of many others’ opinions as well, or so I would like to think.

          If you have read some of the other blog-posts you might be able to find a topic that you are more agreeable with rather than trying to put someone down on what they do out of their time to express their feelings, beliefs, and understandings, and if so happens that you disagree with all that T.K. might have to say, then maybe this isn’t the blog for you.

          All within my own opinion, but mayhap you listen and understand that this is a blog that has actually helped people and has brought understanding to problems that they might not have understood on their own, such as I have experienced on my own terms and relations to the topics posted. I do not wish to offend you by saying I believe you are wrong, because that is my opinion and you are, as I said, entitled to your word, but I shall say that you ARE wrong where this blog is concerned. I only hope that maybe you find a topic that you agree with and try not to find the negativity but rather the positive creativity that T.K. offers in his posts.

          His posts really have helped people and reminded them that sometimes it’s ok to be creative even if when you don’t feel all that positive. He has helped me in a personal sense of reminding me that life is creative and I must find a way of harvesting that creativity in a positive sense.

          So please, read some of the other posts before you make your judgement, but keep your opinion if you wish. Just keep in mind if you will, I think that you are wrong, and mayhap there be others that think the same as I, or the same as you; opinions are contridictions and people are contridicting, but this blog isn’t pathetic to those whom may understand it, and it is only pathetic to those whom may not open their eyes to creative forces.

          Sincerely yours,

          Emmy

  2. This article assumes I can know another person’s consciousness, and I should accept their actions, and assume they are not contradicting themselves when I cannot know one way or another if they are contradicting themselves.

    1. Hmmm. I think I see what you’re saying. Let me see if I can explain.

      I would distinguish my position from the notion that we should “accept” other people’s actions if by “accept” you mean “approve” or “allow.” As I wrote in the comments above:

      “The belief that people are rational beings whose choices are driven by a coherent internal logic is not tantamount to endorsing their behavior. For instance, our capacity to understand the psychology behind why a high-school bully picks on his classmates, does not make it morally acceptable for the bully to engage in acts of abuse. An explanation is not an excuse.”

      Also, I do not mean to imply that we should make specific assumptions about other people’s thoughts and motives without evidence. I do contend, however, that as a general norm, people act in accordance with an *internal* logic even if they contradict themselves *externally*. For instance, take the example of the bully from above: Because I’m not a mind-reader, I have no idea why a particular bully chooses to pick on someone. It could be anything. The bully might be jealous. The bully might be trying to impress a friend. The bully might have been paid to do it. The bully might be lashing out against his/her own experience of abuse. It could be anything, so I can’t know the specifics unless I have evidence. I can be confident, however, that the bully is being driven by an internal logic that makes them feel justified in their behavior. So while the bully contradicts my beliefs about right & wrong, the bully does not contradict his/her own logic or else they wouldn’t engage in the behavior. If a person says “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9am” and they fail to show up, it makes perfect sense to say their words are contradicting their behavior. But even though I can’t know the other person’s specific thoughts and intentions, I would contend that their actions are perfectly consistent with their own outlook and values. And while I don’t think we should accept such behavior, I think we’d be a lot more effective in our dealings with people if we took their own internal understandings into account when trying to resolve conflicts. A person may not make sense to me, but they usually make sense to themselves. And if we can understand how and why they make sense to themselves, we’re far more likely to successfully navigate our interactions with them. I didn’t take the time to argue for it in this article, but my view is based on the idea that people do what they do for a reason even if that reason is unknown or unacceptable to us. That fact doesn’t necessarily make them acceptable, but it does make them more understandable.

      Your thoughts?

  3. Human nature. We say what we think and we say what we feel. Our thoughts and our feelings within will always clash on any one particular subject. We are all, only human and we all do it, regardless of who we are. The solution to contradiction is simple: don’t say anything at all.

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