Thursday, December 26, 2013

What the Grinch Teaches us About Good, Evil, and the Possibility of Change

I love the Grinch story/movies. For those that haven't experienced them, the Grinch is a bad guy (or tragically misunderstood?) who has a turnaround and his heart grows three sizes. How does it grow three sizes? It wasn't because he was shamed.

I got some pushback on my dislike of shaming as an enforcement method in the recent post "6 Surprising Findings About Good and Evil." (Some people found the scientific findings so surprising, they flat out disagreed with them.) People did not like my suggestion that we stop using gossip and public shaming as blunt instrument enforcement mechanisms for ensuring conformity of moral and social behavioral standards. And this was even before the Justine Sacco fiasco, where a Sarah Silverman style joke was the impetus for people who had never given half a thought to the AIDS crisis in Africa to judge her worthy of the equivalent of public social stoning.  One person's criticism: "Your solutions are always based on the whole world changing, but not you. . . . This is the self-delusional part of your diagnosis that has to change in order for you to see a change in how the world accepts you." I think the gist of that comment is that people could simply avoid being shamed by always acting properly (or that social change is not possible or not desirable in this instance?).

The problem is that no one behaves properly all of the time. Whether it is a tasteless joke, or a deeply held belief that is politically unpopular, every single person has done, said, or thought something that, if widely publicized, could ruin them. So often these people who have been shunned by society are not necessarily better or worse overall than most people, they are largely just unlucky (or have too much integrity to change their values due to the pressures of the crowd?). And for that lack of luck (or abundance of virtue however misguided we believe their virtue is?), we collectively destroy them. And I think this is wasteful, unnecessary, and suggests that people must really enjoy shaming to do it as often as they do because that seems to be the major benefit.

I think ruining people's life over one thing they did is generally a bad idea because people are dynamic -- they change their beliefs and their loyalties and their values many times over their lifetime. Think of the violent criminal who mentors and assists his fellow prisoners while incarcerated or the Grinch whose heart grows three sizes. Society is also dynamic -- an idea that was once politically unpopular becomes the norm and vice versa. You may think you're very right in the moral judgments and punishments you invoke against strangers, but so do the people who publicly stone people for otherwise consensual adultery. I'm not saying that society is wrong or needs to change to accommodate me. I'm just saying, these are some of the easy and not even original to me critiques of the prevalent and severely effective blunt instrument that is social shaming to ensure compliance of social norms. Furthermore, as I previously posted, shaming doesn't work how people would like it to. If someone shamed you, would you change your heart or just try to stay more under the radar? There is actually evidence that restorative justice is actually more effective than retributive justice (like shaming and the subsequent social fallout), both in terms of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. For instance, wasn't it because the Grinch was the recipient of restorative justice (allowing him fully back into society after he brought back the Christmas he had stolen) that he was able to change his heart? Or do we no longer give people the benefit of the doubt or even acknowledge that they have the power to change? Maybe we would have preferred for the Grinch to live his life in isolation in his cave, forever shunned from polite society?

I guess it's easier for me to see the negative aspects of shaming than the positive because I have seen so many people in my life make radical changes -- it's why I don't hate my parents for things that happened in my childhood and why I have an appreciation for the redemptive power of spirituality and religion in people's lives. 


  1. Absolutely M.E.! Attitude is everything! Murderers have "reformed."
    Life is NOT static. People grow, and people regress.
    Even Stanton Samenow, aurthor of "Inside The Criminal Mind," says
    that criminals can change IF they are sufficently motivated. ANYONE
    can see the light.
    Incidently, songwriters Burt Bacarack, and Hal David must have known
    sociopaths. The greatest song about an empath's lament of sociopathic behavior is "Anyone Who Had A Heart," and the greatest
    song about a sociopath himself is "What's It All About Alfie?"
    All M.E. is trying to convey in her posts is "What The World Needs
    Now Is Love, Sweet Love!"

  2. First time on this blog and commenting. I can't help but want to know, why do you want to reveal yourself to the world as a sociopath? You state that you don't want others to know your true identity and go by M.E. Thomas but your actions, say other wise, as you chose to go on DR. Phill with that horrible wig and gave away so much information about yourself. I can't believe you are truly trying to hid yourself. Unless you are completely stupid? which I doubt. Now, what do you wish to get out of this? Fame? Admiration? Book sales? Regardless, a true sociopath really understands the fact that once revealed, your power will diminish. Once they know about you , you will no longer be able to manipulate them. Why would you want that? I understand because of the high ego of sociopaths we tend to want the world to know about our achievements but usually its after we get caught and no longer want to live amongst society and are willing to be discovered and brag about everything. However, you are throwing away your powers for nothing. Which leads me to believe you are not a real sociopath. You are a groupie , a fan , a delusional sociopath admirer. This thought amuses me, I came across people like you before. Pretending. Wishing they felt nothing. But you do feel everything don't you? You will probably feel something after reading this comment. What are you feeling now? On the Dr. Phil show, you demonstrated the body language of a nervous person. You were playing with your fingers the same way the regulars do when nervous. That is a dead give away missy. I do applaud you for fooling so many people to believe you actually are superior. It says something about you, it says ....your desperate for connection, did you ever think about that? Are you lonely? Its also worth commenting that in your book, you describe yourself as having a athletic body?? You can't really believe you can cover the fact that you have more fat then muscle by stating that it's a sociopathic trait to exaggerate oneself physical built and be on point with the lack of beauty? That too is off. I suggest you work on your game and do more research, perhaps this is the reason for this blog? To further your study on us? I can assure you, most people on your blog are like you. You might sometimes be lucky enough to get a comment from us so take note. But I must warn you, a true sociopath can see right through you Jamie and you may a target. See how easy you are to find?

    1. ^ every thing you accuse her of, who says shes not capable of feeling, wanting, or displaying these things to the outside world, (which your probably way off base), and still be diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder. its a wide range spectrum and it varies from one socio to the next. you have displayed what i believe to be called assolian personality disorder quite nicely.. merry christmas. i really mean that. eat turkey, drink and be merry. :-)

    2. my apologies if i've displayed some shaming M.E. but the impulses made me do it @ annon 8:56. my interpretation of annon's comment came across rude, spiteful and ignorant. i'm sure i might hear my dose of shaming projected back on me too. or maybe not. no pun intended.

    3. Super Chick, Merry Christmas! I just got back to the forum today, but I saw Dr. ginger left a youtube link to watch few days ago- was about Dr.Fallon. I watched it today, loved it!
      I think it would be helpful, if we too leave good links to good articles and videos, it would be helpful and fun too.
      Wish you a happy holiday, we did our Hanukkah almost 20 days ago.

    4. Happy Hanukkah to you as well, and your family. Yes. I got a chance to view Dr. G's link. it was very well-informed. Plus some of his other videos. learning a lot from them. my internet connection is not the greatest where we live, so i'm seeding off my phone. cant watch anymore. battery wont hold a charge. happy holidays. :)

    5. You truly are naive. Did you consider it a possibility that M.E staged and *actress* to play her role in the Dr. Phil show? Maybe rehearsed everything? I mean, just a suggestion. Another thing is you seem to believe you know everything about sociopathy, like a German thinking he knows everything about every German and can tell whether someone is German or not when they clearly are. Thin-spread example, but an example nevertheless. Sociopaths are each very different from one another, but do share, like the Germans, similar ancestry and in the end come from and inhabit the same territory. Analogies analogies. Quit being such a pretentious prick and acknowledge that fact that--you know what, just keep those erratic conspiracies off of this lovely message board. Rotten apples ruin the bunch.

  3. The whole shaming process is shameful itself. When someone starts the shame feast others join in for pleasure, personal gain, self-affirmation, solidarity, …. “ And they'll feast, feast, feast, feast. They'll eat their Who-Pudding and rare Who-Roast Beast. But that's something I just cannot stand in the least.” It’s just sooo jolly that often, they forget why they are doing what they are doing. So, they end up justifying it somehow.
    And Mr. Grinch never really changed, he just made another selfish tactical move toward the end of his life to be remembered for good.

  4. "If someone shamed you, would you change your heart or just try to stay more under the radar?"

    I leave. In many cases, shame feasts starts not because someone behaving bad, no because someone perceiving it as bad -for whatever reason. It can escalate pretty fast, and is harmful for no good reason.

  5. "One person's criticism: "Your solutions are always based on the whole world changing, but not you. . . . This is the self-delusional part of your diagnosis that has to change in order for you to see a change in how the world accepts you." I think the gist of that comment is that people could simply avoid being shamed by always acting properly (or that social change is not possible or not desirable in this instance?"

    The gist of this comment has nothing to do with public shaming but directly addresses your Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It's an example of how to you an "easy fix" to YOUR mental health disorder would be to have an entire society change to accommodate YOU. There are two delusional parts to this. The first is that an entire culture could/should/would actually change for one person. and secondly that it's easy. Society and culture do change, but over generations and many years time.

    I agree with you that public shaming is completely useless, and quite frankly, a sign of ignorance and stupidity by those you use it. It doesn't do anyone any good. But as I explained, it's not about public shaming. If you could wave a magic wand and end public shaming tomorrow, you would still be you. It would not affect your diagnosis, only by YOU changing can affect your outcome.


    1. MelissaR,
      Who said that the whole world should be changing to accommodate someone? Really, I like to see the person who said that. I am one of the selfish ones here, but I don’t think so. I always stand for LIVE AND LET LIVE. Yes, world can change “over generations and many years ” but let’s aim it toward a world that accepts pluralism, a tolerant world that people with different ideas and personalities can live peacefully along together- even Mr. Grinch.

      Your self-righteousness and mine do not help. Although, I agree with you that shaming is useless, but you should not diagnose others unless you have the expertise to do so.

    2. MelissaR wins again.

      To the anon above me... work on your reading comprehension

  6. I just saw that DR Phil show and I can´t stop laughing.

    I´m sorry, you don´t seem to be the super charming and intelligent person you are writing about. Maybe you just picked wrong persona for that evening.

    BTW what´s up with the wig, is she being serious about it? I guess no one can recognize her now. :D

  7. Often when people have a change of heart / are able to heal, it is in spite of all our efforts, not because of them.

    1. Changing others = Impossible
      Tolerating others = Negotiable

      Better to aim for the second one.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. When I take care of me, you are all taken care of.

  10. "I think ruining people's life over one thing they did is generally a bad idea because people are dynamic -- they change their beliefs and their loyalties and their values many times over their lifetime. "

    You can't have both, M.E. You can't decide it is fine for you to ruin lives and then complain when others do the same thing.

    1. Kudos on an excellent comment

    2. Although I guess ME feels it's ok to ruin people's lives when they haven't done anything wrong but it's not ok to ruin people's lives when they have done something wrong, however minor.

  11. Me you are really lucky to have seen family change.

    None of mine have. You know, my goal is to change a bit, too. It is inspirational.

    Thank you for touching me.


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