Something I’ve been thinking about a ton recently:
People invested in social change often use arguments of the form “you should do this or else you’re a bad person,” presumably because they think that this will motivate people to do it more effectively than arguments like “you should do this because here are all the ways it would make the world better,” or “you should do this because you would benefit from it yourself,” or others.
But in my experience as a writer and educator, this actually gets in the way because it paralyzes people. The thought of being A Bad Person looms so prominently in their minds that rather than reevaluating their opinions or behavior, they protest and get angry and resentful. The idea of being judged A Bad Person by someone they don’t even know makes them indignant, and that’s not a situation conducive to learning or social change.
That’s why I’ve largely been moving away from labeling people Good or Bad, both out loud and in my own thinking. Yes, sometimes it’s unavoidable to think that someone is A Bad Person, but I find that these thoughts *get in the way*. A Bad Person can be written off forever. A Bad Person can also be abused and treated cruelly with no ethical qualms, and you can probably see how this easily leads in a really bad direction.