Is the “Internal Struggle” an Exemption from Responsibility for How We Treat Others?

I saw this meme on Facebook, and immediately liked it and disliked it!

On the one hand, I’ve been learning a great deal about inner struggles, especially in this last year or so. I’ve been going through some of my own, while also seeing friends go through theirs. And I’ve also been studying a lot about such things, learning how psychologists size it all up, and such. And I’m glad to report that I definitely have more of a gracious mindset about it than ever before. I totally get when the meme is saying about realizing where bad behavior is coming from! And I’m definitely more empathetic (now!) about the binds people get into and how it effects our behavior.

On the other hand, however, one huge part of dealing with my own struggles is the (solid) moral conviction that I have no right to take it out on other people when I’m emotionally uncomfortable. It’s a Golden Rule issue, the way I see it. And I’m bound to treat them as I wish to be treated myself. It follows, then, that everyone is obligated under this same principle. And while it’s difficult to tell from this meme exactly how this particular author would see it, I do see memes addressing this general topic often, and they seem to have a certain dismissive tone about them, as if to say, “It’s OK—his bad behavior—because he is hurting.”

Uh, we’re all hurting! This world is filled with hurts, large and small, simple and difficult. It’s filled with uncertainties and insecurities and regrets and fears and all manner of hardships and challenges. There’s no day off from all that, on which we’re then expected to switch on the Golden Rule that was switched off during the hard days (though the traditional religious Sunday or Christmas might be a couple of examples of attempts at this sort of mentality?).

So this meme leaves me wanting a bit more—a shoutout to the responsibility of the hurting soul not to pass the hurting on to others. Someone shunning the responsibility might well love this meme precisely because it could be useful in a “Get off me!” way, excusing them from their responsibility to endure and to overcome the ugliness of this beautiful/ugly world, and to protect their fellow man by being sure they don’t pass any of it along themselves!

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