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‘Jekyll and Hyde – the good and bad within us’

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I heard a saying once that “it is not the person who changes, but rather it is the mask which falls off.”

I am not sure who coined these words, but I found them to be quite interesting and a strong indicator of our perception of others. When someone performs a bad deed, it is so easy for us to reason that he or she has been that ‘evil person’ all along,{{more}} pretending to be good; hence the analogy of the “mask” coming off.

But I wonder… what would be the reasoning when a generally bad person one day does all good deeds; can we also conclude that the mask has come off, suggesting that the person has been good all along? I would like to posit that good and bad exist in each of us and situations can contribute to the choices of responses we exhibit.

A Jekyll and Hyde personality describes someone with a double personality, each distinct and totally opposite. One side of a split personality may be amicable and easygoing, while the other side can be withdrawn or even violent. It is a myopic mindset of confining someone to being one or the other, good or bad, that has made it difficult and almost impossible for prisoners to be properly rehabilitated for re-entry into society. There is no perfect person in the world, but the celestial and most sacred person has his/her faults.

We are all a mixture, or reflections of shades of gray in this thing called the human condition. The danger is in the habit. Once you start to lie, once you start to steal, once you start to cheat, or murder, or deceive, it gets easier. You start believing you won’t get caught. And further to that, you justify your actions. It appears every action can be justified if we try hard enough to do so: speeding, to cheating on taxes, lying to the boss, or having an affair.

As a result of these habits or tendencies towards that which is questionably bad, we have laws and rules. There is a reason that there is a very high correlation between rule of law and quality of life. And there is a reason we have a government with different branches and checks and balances. We have to keep each other in check! We need to be reminded that for society to work, we have to honour each other’s freedoms and dignity and the safety and security of our public lives; otherwise we ALL descend into the abyss.

It is good to think about these things, but for certain, start with the person in the mirror. Know yourself, and be honest with your own failures. Self-righteousness is just as dangerous and destructive as the willingness to break the law. Be one who is willing to see that truth for what it is, in each of us. Our humility may be our greatest asset, forgiveness the necessary balance to justice.

Lastly, remember that everyone is a mixture of good and bad choices. But these are the things which form us as people…

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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