I was just dwelling on lousy things I did many many moons ago that I regret. While contemplating those things, I thought to myself, “well, I didn’t mean to be an asshole” — at least I wasn’t trying to be a bastard.
But then I realized that most people aren’t trying to be bastards when they do it, and that doesn’t change how I feel about it when people do shitty things. For example, say I’m driving too slow and it enrages a driver who is stuck behind me. They tailgate me dangerously all the way to the gas station where they get out of their vehicle and scream at me like a lunatic before hopping back in their car and doing a burnout as they leave. A little while later, that person might think, “shit, I really flipped out there. I shouldn’t have done that.” They didn’t want to be an asshole, their fury just got the better of them — but they were a huge asshole, so what does it matter if they wanted to be or not?
My point is that it’s obviously unforgivable when someone makes the conscious decision to be a prick, but I actually think one could make the argument that it’s worse when someone is an asshole without meaning to be, because it shows that their most basic, instinctive reaction is a cruel, shameful one. It reveals that, once all the intellectual layers are pulled back, a rotten core is exposed, and I find that about as sickening in its own right as the maniacs who strive to be evil dicks.
Then again, I know I’ve unintentionally done my fair share of shitty things but have also worked diligently to become more self-aware and try to be a better person (relatively speaking) over the years. Because of that, I hate to imagine anyone writing me off for something I did 20 years ago, have regretted since, and have worked to avoid doing again.
I guess it boils down to
- how grievous people find the shitty act,
- if the offender made genuine attempts to make amends and change the lousy aspects of themselves,
- if the people offended feel the attempts to make amends outweigh the shitty act.
Man alive, nothing is ever black and white. How truly annoying.