Never attribute to malice or ill-will that which can be readily attributed to heartlessness or carelessness.
“Misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When forced by fate to depend upon the whim of a narcissist, a bureaucrat, a doctor, a petty tyrant, or a really busy person, it’s good to remember that although this thing, this thing you need from them, is extremely important to you, it’s a really low-priority item for them; indeed, on their daily to-do list, helping you is sandwiched somewhere between “check Facebook” and “clean kitty litter”. As such, if they take a long time to get back to you, don’t be so quick to assume that they’re ignoring you or trying to send you a message. Never attribute to malice or ill-will that which can be readily attributed to heartlessness or carelessness.
Likewise, when forced by fate to deal with a person who’s losing their mind, an old person who’s losing their memory, a drunk who’s losing their temper, an ideologue who’s losing their argument, an insecure person who’s losing their confidence—or anyone suffering from advanced dis-disease—it’s good to remember that this little disagreement you’re having with them, which seems so straightforward and trivial to you, is a really big deal to them. They need to be right about this. A great deal’s at stake. To you, it’s no big deal one way or the other (either we went to Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1988 or we went to Florida): maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But for them, being wrong means confronting a much bigger, scarier possibility (e.g., I’m losing my mind, I’m losing my memory, I’ve wasted half my life on a bad idea, etc.).
—John Faithful Hamer, Butterflies not Crocodiles (2016)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.