March 4th, 2010

Serious Thoughts

The Worst Thing You've Ever Done

This piece is not about any one person specifically, it's about the way people are demonised in general.

I want you to think about the worst thing you've ever done. Something, no matter how long ago you did it, that you're still ashamed of. Don't shy away from it, think hard about the nastiest, shittiest, lowest thing you've ever done to someone.

Now, I want you to imagine people in general, and the internet as a vague group, deciding that's the person you really are.

Think about how they would react, how they would treat you, attack you, the things they would write about you - for a single act. It doesn't matter if it was a mistake, deliberate, or if there were extenuating circumstances - they don't care. There's little to no forgiveness out there, almost every time folks talk about you, it will be in relation to whatever it was you did.

How would that make you feel, as the weeks became months and years, and people still brought it up? How would you feel about the fact that no matter what else you did, there would always be someone there ready to bring up that single bad decision and start the whole thing up again? That every other positive act in your entire life would be deemed unimportant or irrelevant compared to this single event.

I'm not saying there should be universal forgiveness. Some people repeatedly do horrid things to others. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a price to pay for a single error, sometimes we have to make amends. But if the only issue you can find with a person is one really bad thing they've done, then doesn't that suggest there may be more to them than that one act?

Remember this the next time the crowd starts baying for someone's blood over a single mistake, especially if you're part of that crowd. Other people are as complex and have as many layers as you do.

You, and I, are not just the worst thing we ever did.

And neither is anyone else.