To care enough about the welfare of others to want to work on their behalf requires empathy, and is the essence of genuine love. Disturbed characters lack the capacity to love in this way because they lack empathy, and the warning signs are always in the attitudes they display toward accepting obligation.
Some individuals possess innate traits and have learning experiences that together more easily prepare them to lead a responsible life. But other individuals possess traits that make the socialization process inherently more challenging than usual. And, if on top of that such folks just happen to come from environments replete with various types of abuse, neglect, or inadequate guidance, they can enter adulthood with little motivation to bear the burden of responsible living.
Learning to be responsible is largely a matter of accepting burdens for the greater good, and folks lacking in empathy rarely have the motivation to bear such burdens. The willingness to do so can only arise out of love, which is why a person’s incapacity to genuinely love is always reflected in their shirking of responsibility.
Being a faithful, committed participant in a life partnership has never been an easy task. It takes integrity of character to resist the many temptations one faces on a daily basis, to honor one’s vows and to genuinely love.
The judge’s decision in the Ethan Couch case left many wondering whether being “spoiled rotten” will become the new defense for delinquent juveniles hoping to evade accountability for their actions.
The antics of two public figures have illustrated the cardinal features of character dysfunction with such clarity that I think it fair to dub the actor Alec Baldwin and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford the new poster children for character disturbance.
When you strive too hard to “understand” a person’s behavior, you can often inadvertently excuse it.
Society can set all the limits and boundaries it chooses. But the willingness to respect those boundaries and limits instead of trying to get around them is an a matter of each individual heart.
The most important thing for anyone to accept is that the disturbed character’s behaviors are his (or her) problems to address through appropriate guidance and dedicated self-correction.
Neurotics have a big sense of right and wrong, set high standards for themselves, and sometimes proverbially carry the world on their shoulders. In contrast, disturbed and disordered characters have a remarkably impaired, immature, or underdeveloped conscience. In some extreme cases, conscience can be absent altogether and even the capacity to form a conscience nonexistent.