Evil intent vs. Misguided intent: Practicing Hanlon’s Razor
I don’t believe everyone is good, not even at heart, but I do believe that everyone, in the moment of action, believes what they’re doing is best.
To me, this just makes sense – their act of doing confirms that they believe, in that moment, that action is the best action. They can say they believe otherwise, or someone else can assume they still believe otherwise, but really they don’t – because to me, actions are a direct result of one’s beliefs.
In practice, this means when I see someone doing something bad, instead of assuming they’re motivated by a desire to do evil, I try to assume they just see their action differently than I do and in fact think what they’re doing is the best option given the situation.
It’s like Hanlon’s Razor:
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
I don’t believe people are actively trying to be bad. They (we) just don’t know.
Just before Jesus died, he implicitly condoned the same approach. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even in that moment of suffering, instead of assuming the people who tacked his body to a cross were acting with evil intent, he gave them a way out. He recognized that they simply didn’t know what they were doing.
I try to follow that assumption. I don’t think everyone’s trying to be evil. We just don’t know what we’re doing.