Why respecting even the most vile criminals is important to our survival
Current literature strongly indicates that demonizing or dehumanizing others because of their relative values — be they ethnic, cultural, behavioral or criminal — exacerbates PTSD
There is a segment of our society whose behavior can be so objectionable that it is sometimes hard to view these people as humans. They can be dirty, smelly, sloppy, lazy, egotistical, indignant, argumentative, and disrespectful. They sometimes lie and often complain.
Their reprehensible behavior can be immoral and even illegal. But, somehow we love them unconditionally.
Yes, I am talking about teenagers.
Relative and Absolute Values
In our Ethical Warrior work with military and law enforcement personnel we often clarify the nature of values. There are really just two kinds:
1.) Relative values: Those values that can be different for me than they are for you, based upon our culture, environment, upbringing, personal preference, etc.; and
2.) The Life Value: Not relative, but universal (don’t overthink this – we all share this value; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be alive).
The reason we can abhor the words and actions of some teenagers, yet still love them, flows from our ability to separate in our minds the relative value of their behaviors (which can be good, bad, or indifferent) and the absolute value of their lives and our love for them (which is not relative).
When my teenage son acts objectionably or even criminally, I know I don’t have to respect his behavior, but I still love him (respect his life). That is the way we roll. And that goes for teenage girls, too, who can also be a pain.
You may be saying, “It’s not a good comparison, I can easily value my loved ones, and valuing strangers isn’t my problem.”
Wait, What? Loving a Criminal?
Fair enough. Dealing with criminals is not the same as dealing with teenagers (although sometimes we are dealing with the same thing). It may seem ridiculous to say that we “love” a criminal, even if we detest his or her behavior.
Yet, this little piece of philosophical clarification might be just what we need to act ethically and professionally under stress. We deal with the behavior, but we don’t dehumanize the person.
Sometimes it is very difficult to witness the illegal and immoral actions of a criminal and separate in our minds the absolute value of life from the relative value of his or her behavior, but it is the right thing to do.
Law enforcement officers (ethical warriors) have an obligation to stop strangers from behaving illegally, and may use force to do so if necessary. How much easier might it be to lose track of our ethics, and perhaps use force inappropriately, if we don’t value the lives of everyone? What is the greater “crime?” Stealing a car? Or robbing someone of their humanity because you disagree with their behavior?
One is illegal, but the other is unethical.
Additionally, the ability to make this separation may be one of the keys to avoiding stress, burnout and PTSD. Current literature strongly indicates that demonizing or dehumanizing others because of their relative values — be they ethnic, cultural, behavioral or criminal — exacerbates PTSD. Feel free to contact us and we will share our reference sources with you.
When we denigrate the value of one life, we denigrate the value of all life — including our own. The Life Value applies to all humans, even those we don’t like.
Yes, even criminals.
- Police Training