We all remember little sayings our parents used to impart to us when we were children, right? Gems such as: “If you eat too much candy, your toes will fall off,” and “If you walk around outside barefoot, you’ll get worms.”
Probably not those specifically …
It’s an interesting thing to think about, though, those little teaching moments. They’re simplified for kids. For example, sugar is not directly linked to diabetes; however, if you overindulge in sweets (or any food, really) you might gain weight which does increase your risk of diabetes and that can increase the risk of artery disease and/or nerve damage and blah blah blah amputation. Ever tried explaining that to a kid? I haven’t, but I have been a kid, and I wouldn’t have cared. I mean … I cared that I thought my toes might fall off, but you better believe I never fucking gave up that sweet, sweet sugary goodness.
The point is, sayings like that stick with you. Specifically, they instill in you the fact there are repercussions to your actions, behaviors, or decisions. If you do x, then y will happen. But there’s more to it than that. What if we go from action/consequence to action/consequence/qualifier.
Take, for example, this little saying: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” Now add qualifiers: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose unless it isn’t hurting anyone AND you have your friend’s consent.”
Two qualifiers there, both essentially changing “can’t” to “shouldn’t.” Those qualifiers are also asking the recipient of this saying (henceforth referred to as Dave; he doesn’t mind) to consider others before acting. So, now Dave has to ask himself, “How will this affect the people around me and how will it affect my friend?” That’s macro and micro level empathy, you guys. That’s something that can be cultivated. With the exception of individuals with certain mental disorders (primarily, but not limited to, sociopathy, narcissism, any form of psychopathy really) people are born with the ability to empathize.
Build. On. That.
You can do anything. I mean … you can do anything physically possible for a human. Can you eat an excess of candy? Yes. Can you steal? Of course. Can you walk outside with no shoes? Absolutely! Can you murder? Why not? You can do so much!
But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Act with the knowledge that what you do creates ripples that reach beyond you. Or, more simply put, just try not to be a dick.