Why do people act the way they do? Why do people hurt each other, hate each other, manipulate each other, deceive each other and sometimes even kill each other?
Why would we ask this question in the first place? Probably because we do not understand why people do certain things. And, to take this answer further, usually because we have no idea why they would do these things to us.
If someone has hurt us in some way, we want to know what motivated them to do so because, in understanding their reasons, we may one day come to forgive them and let this issue go. The mind is extremely averse to confusion and doubt. The satisfaction of logic is far more preferable to the hollowness of an unanswered question — and I make no promises in this here blog post, but let’s still attempt to answer it…
There are a variety of ways in which people hurt us; they bully us, call us names, cut in line, make too much noise when we’re trying to sleep, cheat on us, leave us, make us feel small and unworthy, reject us, lie to us, use us for personal gain, overwork us, judge us, make life impossible for us, use emotional blackmail on us, scratch the paint on our car, waste our precious time, abuse us and control us along with a whole host of other things.
The concept of ‘the pin’ was coined by French philosopher Emile August Chartier in the early 1900s. It refers to the idea that, at source of all terrible acts committed by our fellow human beings, lies a streak of inner-agony and turmoil within them. In assuming our perpetrator of the crime has this ‘pin’ within them, we can begin to see beyond our judgements and into the realm of empathy, even if we fundamentally disagree with their initial actions.
Whether or not someone’s actions were intentional or unintentional is irrelevant when you use the pin. Yes, an intentionally immoral act is more emotionally painful if you’re on the receiving end then a mere accident. But both kinds of action have their pin. In fact, if the perpetrator’s actions were intentional, then the pin inside them is likely to be more painful. Perhaps they’re compensating for a lack of love and attention inside; maybe they’re clinging to an ideology they can’t let go of, or it could be that their whole life is an act of revenge on the fatherly or motherly figure they never had, and you unfortunately got caught in their line of fire. Either way, you must always assume a pin is there, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is.
To the take the pin to its extreme, you can even see the pin in yourself. When was the last time you hurt someone else? Don’t see this as an exercise in guilt or shame. Rather, see it as an opportunity to discover more about the subtlety of the pin. Notice how it’s so easy to judge others for hurting us, whilst letting ourselves off the hook for hurting others. Maybe you lied to that person that time because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings; Perhaps you cut in line on the way to work because you didn’t want to be late and were afraid of being fired and winding up jobless. So next time you wonder why someone else hurt you, ask yourself why you hurt someone else in the past. A useful clue might then be found in the pin within.