How could he/she do this to me?

This question, often asked in times of sorrow, reflects a slight misunderstanding of human tendencies. It is doubtless everyone has at some time been at the giving or receiving end of this statement. Let us consider a simple example to find the solution:


A person ravenously hungry is walking through the meadows when suddenly he sees a fenced orchard spread before him with delicious-looking apples. The fence is too high and cannot be leaped over, so the agog man breaks a section of the fence. Once inside the property, he dashes toward a tree with his gaze fixed on the apple. Climbing it, he plucks many apples and hurriedly departs the orchard once satisfied. The next day, the owner discovers the broken fence and marauded apples and in disbelief vociferates “how could this person do this to me?” 


What this simple example illustrates is that the primary focus and highest priority of this person was satisfying his personal hunger. Any other thought, i.e. the harm caused by his actions, was not a main consideration and was simply regarded as a necessary collateral damage (if it was even considered at all). It means his desire to satisfy his personal hunger outweighed and was stronger than all other considerations. Ergo, it was nothing personal against the owner, for he was simply an inconvenient casualty in the gratification of the marauder’s desire. Had it been a different owner, the same deed would have been perpetrated. 


As it happens in this simple illustration, so does it hold in all human relations, even in the most seemingly complex scenarios. The issue is always the preference we give the gratification of a personal desire over its collateral damage. 


“How could he/she do this to me?” In this inquiry, the questioner has put himself at the center and regards the actions of the other as an injury personally directed at him. The pain is further aggravated when the inquirer throws into the scale an accounting of all benevolence and sacrifices he has hitherto freely offered the other: “After everything I have done for him!” If the first question is gasoline, then the second question is a match that causes emotional conflagration. Boom! But in reality, their pain and misfortune was never the true center of the other person’s actions, as hard as it is to accept. For the latter’s primary focus and highest objective, again, was the gratification of their personal desire. The yearning to satisfy this at all costs is what leads to regarding any effects simply as necessary collateral damage. 


Think of the marauder. When he broke through the fence, the fixation on gratifying his personal desire actually blinded him to all potential pitfalls of walking into through the unfamiliar terrain. The hunger and his stubbornness to satisfy it emboldened him with a recklessness characteristic of shortsightedness. In a similar fashion, when an opportunity arises and personal desires flare up within an individual, the more selfish and obstinate we are, the more intensely and determined will we seek to gratify the desire, no matter the scenario and cost. Ergo, placing ourselves and our hurt feelings at the center is a misdirection of the happening, for neither of those two where the main focus when the deed was perpetrated. They were simply a means to an end. 


How could he/she do this to me? Simple: the fulfillment of their personal desires meant more to them than anything else. Even you.


As it is with others, so is it with us and all faults and personal desires we carry. The more effort we make to understand our own heart, the more we discover the tendencies of our neighbors.


~Ikenna Q. Ezealah


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