Don’t Take People Out Of Context

One of the best things I learned in English class is that very few characters are pure evil or pure good.

The same is true in life. Very few people are purely bad. I don’t think any of us are purely good.

Every person has a complex combination of environment and genetics that plays into the decisions they make and the person they become. There’s personality and experiences to account for. Most decisions, when viewed in the context of the person making them, aren’t such awful decisions.

It’s easy from the outside, to look at someone’s life and choices and think you would never. But you don’t really know. You aren’t that person. You may have been in a similar situation before, but not as that person, with their experiences, and their personality, at that particular time in their life.

Not to say that everything is justifiable or that there’s no right or wrong. It’s just that there’s not much room for self-righteous judgement when you look at a life in it’s own context.

People do wrong things with good motives and right things with bad motives. When it comes to people, facts are rarely just facts – they bear the weight of the entirety of the person. We aren’t robots.

It’s easy to find error in someone else’s choices, it’s harder to find them in your own. You know the full context of your own life and can understand your own motives, and that tints the way you view your choices.

Likewise, it’s easier to identify with people similar to you because you assume similar motives and experiences to your own and you can more quickly empathize with their choices.

Very few people purposely do horrible things just for the sake of doing horrible things, contrary to what you may believe if you believe every sensational news story or piece of information presented to you.

Don’t take people out of the context of their own story and judge the piece of the story you become privy to. It’s not fair, it’s not just, it’s not helpful, it’s not healthy.

Instead, consider the details of your life and imagine one or two pieces cherry-picked out of context by someone else with the sole purpose of painting you in a certain light.

Wouldn’t that be infuriating?

We exist in a rich, complex, complicated storyline. Our characters are in constant development. Our stories intertwine. There is a colorful depth to human nature, to the human experience. It’s not all black and white with a little gray mixed in. It’s so much more.

The complexity, the colors, the overlap, the depth – that’s what makes it interesting and beautiful. Don’t cheapen it by boxing people in. Be willing to dive into someone else’s story. Dare to go deeper, get more twisted up in the whole thing, and watch the characters flesh out. Get to know their dreams and fears, explore their history, their needs, their ideas. Fall in love with them. That’s when the story gets good.


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