The Lie that Traps People in a Cycle of Destruction

Many readers criticized my last post with some version of this:


In your last post you said…

“There are no bad kids.”

Yes there are.

I understand. Maybe you were victim of one of their crimes. Maybe they bullied you in school. Maybe you’ve given some kid a dozen ‘second chances’ and they still don’t ‘get it.’

I hope you didn’t misunderstand, I do believe there should be consequences for criminal actions, especially violent crimes.

The lie

What I meant when I wrote, ‘There are no bad kids’ is that they are not inherently flawed. If you label them ‘bad’, you are giving them a cop-out, an excuse to act like a victim. You are saying, ‘You can’t help but behave poorly.’ If the kid believes he is bad then he will believe he has no choice. But it’s a lie. He does have a choice, and the lie traps him in a cycle of destruction.

The truth

Your actions are a choice. You are not preprogrammed. You are not a robot. You have free will. You can choose to take constructive action or destructive action. It is your decision. Even if you have chosen to harm someone in the past, it does not make you ‘bad’ right now. You are not required to follow an old pattern. You can choose to make your next action constructive. From there you can commit to making every action constructive. Your past decisions created your present reality but you are only as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as your next decision.

Destructive actions will make your life worse.

Constructive actions will make your life better.

Anybody can change. There are no people incapable of change.

I don’t care if you are in a prison cell or the CEO suite. You have the power of this present moment. No matter what decisions you made 10 minutes ago, 10 months ago, or 10 years ago, you still have the power to do something different right now. It is your choice. This moment is yours. Create something better with it.

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12 thoughts on “The Lie that Traps People in a Cycle of Destruction”

  1. One problem kids from a tough background face is a lack of tools, or a lack of understanding that they even need new tools.

    Anybody can build a house, with the right knowledge and tools. But first, you have to know why you would even want to build a house, then pursue the knowledge and get the tools.

    The truth seems obvious to you and I because we are looking backwards after escaping that pit, but to those still in the pit, it is all they know. This is where talk needs to turn into action for all of us. We have to go down in the pit and point the way out. We aren’t responsible for the outcomes, but I thing we are responsible to share our knowledge and experiences.

    That leaves me with one question. If we try to show another person a better way, and they reject it fully conscious of the consequences, does that make them a bad person? I don’t know the answer to that one, and I am loathe to pass judgment on anyone, but in the context of your original article, it is question worth considering.

  2. I completely agree with this part: If the kid believes he is bad then he will believe he has no choice. Kids are not inherently bad. They become the product of their environment. They see, they learn – good or bad.
    The point is: what are kids learning from us?
    Yes, we have a choice. Are we making the correct choice?

  3. “What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised.
    It’s this: That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That is the world’s greatest lie.”
    Coelho, Paul
    The Alchemist

  4. I do agree with you and that kids are inherently good. I have always believed that how you become as a person later in life is completely based on your environment growing up and if those experiences were healthy or destructive. It starts with proper parenting and being taught right from wrong.

    Anyone can change, but “seeing the light” and to push toward improving
    oneself requires extreme courage and self esteem. The hard part is that if those are foreign to you. People do and are what they know. As a person who has a family member going through tough times, the remedy is love and unconditional support to let someone know that you care-no matter what happens. Caring and support are crucial.

    Great post though Steve. I enjoy them all and appreciate your insights.

  5. I’m glad you stand by this, Steve. And I’m glad that you do believe in consequences… because there are natural ones, and it’s good that as a society we’ve decided that we should impose our own to protect the innocent.

    But you are so spot on about this. Just like you (as you said in your last post), I should be dead right now, and probably by some people’s standards should have been locked up and still be rotting away.

    Because I was “bad”. And I believed that with all of my heart. Sometimes it still pops up in my own head.

    Thank god we can recreate ourselves in each moment, and we can make our own decision about who and what we want to be.

    It’s only right that we should extend the same courtesy to others.

  6. @Lyman,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Personal Transformation is possible. You are living proof. I am living proof. There are thousands of others like us. Maybe millions.

    Like you…
    My intention is to extend the same courtesy I was given to others.


  7. Peoples actions are dictated by their knowledge, experience and intelligence. “Free will” is nothing more than a term used by anyone that doesn’t understand how the human mind works. There is a reason for every decision you make. Just ask yourself “why do I care about that?” and keep asking it until you get down to the very simplest reason.

    I talked to a priest one day, and asked him why he wanted to help people. He said it was because it was Gods will and he enjoyed helping people. I asked him if he would still do it if he didn’t enjoy it and if there was no possible way for him to go to Hell for disobeying God. He looked rather puzzled and I got the distinct feeling that he felt a little less “free willed” than usual.

  8. People want an easily-accessible, permanent label to attach to everything they see. It’s a natural desire for convenience.

    PLUS many people have been brain-drilled since birth to believe that good and bad are clear-cut, objective things that can be applied to everyone and everything.

  9. As long as there are excuses like that, people will think that they can get away with anything. They can’t help it. That’s the way they really are. Excuses like these breed nothing but a lack of growth. There is always a choice. Unfortunately, a lot of people find it easier to just let themselves get caught up in the drama.

  10. Steve,
    My own Mom believes that people are good. How can we call them bad?

    Then, I witness things that make me wonder. My kids are in Cub Scouts. My kids are quite and reserved. They are not too out spoken.
    Now, Cub Scouts are taught lots of good morals. They have lessons in right and wrong. These Scouts are treated well. They get rewards.
    Now, This last Saturday, One of the bigger kids were wrestling down my older son when the Scout Leaders were not watching. My son had told him he didn’t want him to and NO! My son came to me crying.

    I could not understand how this other boy was picking on my son when the leaders turned their backs? I know the boy is well taken care of. His own parent is the Pack Leader! I’d expect him to be well behaved and understanding toward others. I was wrong.

    I have been trying to figure out why he would be mean? I also was trying to figure out why my passive kid was the one he picked on?
    I’m told because the boy knew my kids would not go and tell his father. My kids are quite and know not to tattle. So, This Cub Scout didn’t get in trouble because my kids are what we think of as “good”.

    In some ways, I wish my kids were bad. (beat the boy up!)

    I agree with your blog on this issue.


  11. Anyway, I forgot to mention.
    I think that because this boy is of rather large size. While, He is treated well and his parents have taught him good moral values.
    I think he might be acting out his own self esteem problems.
    I’m not willing to let him use this as a way to be excused.
    I have heard his heavy father make some comments about the kids weight. (As if the mother or father could talk)
    I can only think that when the kids starts acting up more that the boy will only be thought of as inherently evil.

    The parents will look at all the good they provided for the child. They will think of how well they taught him moral values.
    However, They will never have realized their innocent comments about his weight might have had an impact. ?

    So, In a way, I agree with my Mom and think there are no bad people. We just have had a different experience and walked in different shoes. Sure, My kids are so called “good” but they have a great loving support system that tries not to injure them physically or emotionally.

    I’ve made bad choices and I can not throw the 1st stone. I’d like to believe I’m inherently good. However, It is just that I was never caught.

    I should have been but Perhaps that would have just made me go down a path that would have made me make worse decisions.

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