Improper identification of the self or others can lead to enormous disasters
I agree with the idea that there only are two kinds of people, people who divide humankind into two kinds and people who don’t. That means: Don’t divide up people into categories, because that can only lead to hatred. Yet, this unison hides three things. 1. Some people are very dangerous and we must protect ourselves against them. 2. Some very saintly people are no fakes. And, 3. Most people have room to improve themselves.
Lately, I have had some fresh encounters with a couple of wicked people. That helped me finally realize the bigger picture of what kinds we have.
Most people distinguish between two kinds of us, friendly and unfriendly people. Yet, each of those you will find in each of the six below categories.
But, to which category we belong is not written in stone, as I will clarify.
The Jewish Sages identify three categories of people, some with a subdivision, namely: the saintly, the average, and the wicked.
I will suggest six categories, in descending order from pious to evil:
- The complete saints
- The challenged saints
- The average givers, people who’re challenging themselves
- The average takers, people who give to receive
- The holier than thou villains
- The delusional villains
I will now give some details but more in the order of commonality.
The vast majority of any demographic group consists of average people. And in every group, you have all kinds of people. Depicting any group in total as inferior is false and stems from class, racial, or national supremacy.
The Average Givers
Some of us are constantly busy trying to improve themselves. They are quite saintly in their selflessness. They often are not sure if they are good enough and not really wicked. Their main worry is if they gave, give, or will give adequately. They tend to feel guilty about anything they may need or received. They easily forget to say no, depleting their resources. They must learn to be more ‘selfish’ and learn to ask for, accept, and enjoy assistance from others. Most, but not all, of these people are women and gay men.
They seem to prioritize generosity, reliability, humility, and optimism.
There is nothing regular about them. One by one, they are exemplary.
The Average Takers
These people may give but only to receive. They find themselves OK since they’re normal. They won’t try to improve themselves. They try to improve what they have. For them, quick incentives are jealousy and greed. It is possible to turn them into average givers, but it may take more than much external coaching. At best, most of them will give more to receive more.
All rabbis’ sermons try to do is to make average takers into average givers. Young kids can learn to be givers. Yet, they learn per example, not words.
Cynical average takers cannot (under)stand such saintliness and often feel they must bring them down to look like fellow ordinary, average people.
The Total Saints
These are extremely rare. They are often recognized as exceptional and superhuman. They impress, not because they are Angles, but because they are fully human and still lack any vice. Some stay under the radar of everyone. Yossele, the holy miser is a good example (see the above clips).
Most ‘total saints’ are neither. Some generous givers do so only to receive, are only large average takers. Some are even wicked pretenders without any good disposition. Most observers are too naïve to notice.
The Challenged Saints
They are rare too. They are also frequently recognized as exemplary. Yet, they still may have private challenges. They can see or present themselves as average, but most people are impressed and not fooled. They selflessly give of themselves day and night. They are an enormous help to humanity.
They are constantly upset about their limited powers to contribute and give. Most people will never graduate to that category but we can still be inspired by them to become or stay average givers—which are also great contributors to people around us and humanity as a whole.
Their flaws don’t mean that they are average, don’t erase their saintliness.
The average Joe (and Mary) tend to regard villains as average people, much like themselves, challenged and flawed. Allowing villains power over others always leads to enormous disasters, in the home, and in society.
These aren’t average, flawed people like most of us. They’re exceptional, destructive, and often dangerous people. Being naïve about them is not a virtue. Protect, save yourself, your loved ones, and humanity from them.
Lying and delusional villains may fight or enable each other, as suits them.
The Lying Villains
They know that they are wicked and try to pass as saintly. Many of us can’t imagine such cold-heartedness and will fail to identify them properly.
They are not uncommon. But, you need to reassure their victims that 99% of humankind is not like them, that trusting most people is still an option.
They often succeed in passing as saints. With all the ensuing disasters. This is how you spot them: They are possibly charming but notice how cold they are. They seem too good to be true—they are fakes. They can cry crocodile tears on command without any emotions. They are intrigued by vulnerable, powerless people, but they can’t respect them. If you’re nice to them, they will despise you. They love anything powerful and grotesque.
Everything about them is fake. They lie, cheat, pretend, flatter, anything to fool everyone (except their fellow fakers). They are confused about what is true and what is false in their thinking (but not about what others say). All clarity they still have may stem from them previously being average takers.
They have enormous egos and lack any empathy (but for themselves). Their public image and undeserved good name are all they care about.
(Hitler and Arafat even believed they were holy, protected by higher powers. They miraculously survived so many assassination attempts.)
They are power-hungry experts in manipulation and conspiration. Get to safety first. Don’t be surprised if they manage to rile everyone against you.
They are such control freaks that they will only delegate to divert blame.
They can be ex-average takers who got much corrupting money or power.
They may be early childhood abuse survivors. They bully and victimize while still feeling under attack, thinking they’re just defending themselves.
Don’t threaten them or they may get really dangerous. As long as you are vulnerable, smile and pretend to be unaware of their wickedness.
Don’t expect them to repent. Their revulsion against being vulnerable (again) makes them secretive and unsuitable for any therapy. And they are addicted to and blinded by power, and feeling emotions is not half as sexy. They hate weakness, also in others, and get violent at its sight.
Whether you locate them in your family or as local or national leaders (they won’t serve under anyone), you must first escape their power and then advocate they’ll be disempowered by a large coalition of average us.
The Delusional Villains
These are the most dangerous. They themselves believe to be saints under attack. The sadistic ISIS murderers see themselves as driven by higher, not wicked ideals. Yet, almost everyone recognizes them as highly immoral.
It is impossible to contain or punish them. They must be locked up.
- Wicked people don’t see themselves as evil.
- Chronic takers often see themselves as generous.
- Chronic givers often see themselves as stingy.
- Try to recognize the lying villains and their dangers.
- Ask a loved one if you are basically a taker or a giver.
- Get a better life/world by trying to improve yourself.
Rabbi E.E. Dessler says the only goal of Judaism is to make babies who know how to receive into grownups who know how to give.
While I go to Selichot, I won’t have time to blog daily. But you have 1,400 blog posts in the archive to choose from. Many as fresh as if written today.