Good people are lucky. Many of them don’t know that they are one unfortunate event away from becoming bad. Those who do know can fortify their goodness so that, if unlucky circumstances arise, they won’t be so quick to betray their principles.
For those of you wondering what these circumstances are that can turn good people bad, I have come up with a list of seven. This is by no means a complete list, but it contains situations that, in my estimation, result in the most moral casualties. For people that “go down the wrong path,” the path often starts at one of these causes.
When tragedy strikes you or someone close to you, it’s hard not to blame something – or somebody – even if no one was at fault. A person can then become angry at people that don’t deserve it. Also, when a person sees him or herself as a victim of tragedy, they may feel justified in treating people, who have not suffered like they have, horribly.
When a person’s poor and hungry, there’s no measure too extreme to take. A person in this situation becomes closest to an animal. Life becomes, for them, pure survival. Thus, they may rely on theft, assault, or worse to acquire the resources that have been withheld from them.
Reliance on anything, especially drugs, can make a person betray their morals to maintain their comfort. A person whose life revolves around getting their fix is capable of doing anything – and we mean anything – to accomplish this task. Addiction controls a person’s life, and addiction, if it were a person, would not be a nice one.
When you do a good deed, you may feel morally superior to many people. And perhaps, for a time, you actually are. But those who feel morally superior often do not stay morally superior. In fact, this is the norm. Moral licensing is a phenomenon that occurs when people who do good deeds feel justified doing bad deeds. Essentially, for many people, morality is a balancing act. So if someone donates to charity before passing a homeless person, they are more likely to ignore the beggar, because they have already met their “goodness” quota. Moral licensing has been proven in study after study.
Abuse is a vicious cycle. People who have been abused often abuse others in the future. Abuse can mean violence, manipulation, discrimination, or any non-consensual exploitation of others to satisfy one’s own desires. However, many people who are abused vow to never abuse because of how intense their suffering was. These noble people break the cycle.
Political and ethical causes are intoxicating. Every person wants to feel that they’re contributing to the betterment of society, which means many of them will subscribe to ideologies that they identify as promoting the “greater good.” However, one person’s greater good will always be in conflict with another person’s greater good. And how “great” is the good if it prevents you from seeing people as people and only obstacles standing in the way of your goal? People who are possessed by ideologies put a moral ideal above moral acts.
Poverty is one end of the moral degradation spectrum; affluence is the other. Both circumstances can cause otherwise good people to become assholes. When a person is affluent, meaning they have all the money they need, they might construe this as conceit instead of luck. Such people, believing they worked harder or more intelligently than others who do not have the same wealth, are liable to view every bad luck story as a cautionary tale about laziness. Indeed, these people may have worked hard for their money, but circumstance, as always, has a larger share in their prosperity.
People can and do go through all the above situations and remain good, but it’s much harder to remain good when one’s challenged in such ways. Being bad under these circumstances is easy; being good takes the courage to fall and not want others to fall too.