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Nobody Does Wrong Willingly

Updated: Jun 4

"Nobody Does Wrong Willingly." –Socrates


Commentary

We all try to do what we think is right. No one thinks, "I just want to be a stupid person and do wrong things." YET, a lot of us will jump to conclusions and criticize others as if they are stupid or intentionally wanted to do wrong. So before we criticize others, we should ask ourselves, "Why might they think what they are doing is right?"

 

For example, I have a classmate who seems to be overly attached to her studies and can be rather unfriendly sometimes. When she's in our classroom, the other classmates are scared to chat. When we have extracurricular activities, she almost never comes.

 

At first, I was a bit judgmental towards her, thinking that all she cares about is her grades and that she doesn’t value her relationships with classmates enough. But one time, I had a chat with her, and she mentioned in passing that she has so much pressure here because there are so many expectations from her parents and teachers, and she wants to be worthy of receiving all the tuition money that her parents and other donors provided her.

 

Suddenly, I saw her in a different light. She has a great sense of responsibility. She isn't being unfriendly because she is an unfriendly person. Rather, she just has too much stress, but she definitely has her reasons for doing what she does.

 

But even though she has her reasons, I still have a moral responsibility to advise her against doing things that might harm her future success or happiness. Hence, I praised her for her sense of responsibility, and then I reminded her that aside from her studies, it's really important to build good relationships with others. After all, most of our future success in life is not dependent on how good our grades were in school, but rather on our interpersonal skills and relationships. Moreover, having good relationships with classmates will make us happier, and we can all help each other out in times of need. When I advised her from a place of care and consideration, she was much more receptive.

 

There is another situation when people know that what they are doing is wrong, but they can't help it. Usually it's a bad habit or some kind of health condition. Again, we really should be more understanding and less critical.

 

For example, my roommate this year almost never wakes up to attend the morning meditation at 5:40AM. At first, I was kind of critical, thinking that he's just being lazy, or that he just doesn't respect the school enough, because if he really respected the school, he would sleep earlier and wake up on time for class.

 

But later, another classmate told me, "He's too much. Last year, before you arrived here, we would have some school outings on Wednesday mornings instead of the morning class. He told us to wake him up. We'd go wake him up, but he wouldn't wake up. Then later, he says, 'Did you guys wake me up? I wanted to go on the outing!'"

 

The classmate then said, "I really do want to wake up! I just can't help it."

 

I've also told this classmate to just try sleeping earlier and to not shower so late at night. But he said that he just can't fall asleep, and that he's used to showering at night, otherwise he doesn't feel like lying on the bed. Anyone who has really tried to change a habit knows how hard it is, so we shouldn't be so demanding and impatient towards others.

 

Later, he decided to make up for the missed morning meditation during the afternoon. This wasn't forced by the teacher; he raised this idea himself because he felt bad for always missing the morning class. This is proof of Mencius' view that human nature is good: people know what is moral and not, and they feel ashamed when doing immoral things.

 

When our school year finished, and everyone was leaving, there was one day where three classmates left at 5:30AM, 7:00AM, and 8:00AM respectively. The night before, he told me, "Please wake me up tomorrow. I want to see them off." The next day, I woke him up three times. Each time, he was really tired, but he forced himself up to say goodbye to his classmates. We were all quite touched by his efforts.

 

From these two experiences, I got a deeper impression that everyone is really trying their best to do what they think is right, and I should try to understand others' difficulties rather than judge them from my limited and biased perspective. With this belief, we will view others in a better light, and we will have better, more harmonious and happier relationships.

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