The terror inspired by the ‘good person’

Some will say I am unfairly denigrating ‘good people’ with the following comments. Critics will say that good people are innocent, unaware and not responsible for possible negative effects they have on others; the good person has noble intentions and is just trying to behave in a proper manner.

It is certainly wrong to suggest that one person is ultimately responsible for the reactions that other people have to them. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own reactions. However, it is a fact that one person can influence others and that we all have the capacity for emotional abuse. Whether or not we fully realise it, our behaviour can be manipulative in a negative sense, even when he hold positive ideals in our head.

The good person can inspire terror* among others simply by way of being righteous. If the righteous person is self-conscious, shy, nervous or sensitive, the terror is magnified. We get edgy around do-gooders (interpret this term non-pejoratively) because we suspect that their righteousness is a result of strict, perhaps harsh judgements they have made of themselves in the past.  We fear that they will turn these judgements toward us, or that they already have, but will not express those judgements because that would break with the polite exterior.

What’s a good person, who is concerned about possible negative effects of their behaviour as described above, to do?

  • Follow the advice of JC, “do not judge…”
  • Put in extra effort to show that you accept others
  • Try not to take yourself too seriously, at least in the presence of others
  • Show people your lighter side (but don’t feel you have to be vulgar or lower your standards)

There’s the advice. Now, here’s the rub. I don’t think the good person is so innocent in regards to the terror they engender in others. The good person, perhaps not fully realising it, uses the terror described above to keep others ‘in line’ and at a distance. They terrorise with painful politeness. “Be cautiously nice and tip-toe around me, otherwise I’ll choose to get upset and you’ll feel like scum for upsetting me” — they emotionally blackmail others with their sensitivity and timidity. These are not inherent ‘personality attributes’ of the person, but deliberately chosen behaviours to deal with a world they perceive as threatening. They are largely effective. They are good at preventing potential bullies from getting close enough to the point where the person would have to stand up for themselves and say ‘fuck off’. However, these behaviours are deeply manipulative and anti-social, even if we fail to recognise them as such.

*apprehension is a more accurate term, but terror has rhetorical effect

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