Do We Pay As Much Attention to Positive Gestures as to Negative Ones?

I get a lot of newsletters in my e-mail and confess that they don’t all receive my full attention. But one I do try to read regularly is Joyce Rupp’s monthly reflection. The reflection I received this morning invites us to reflect on whether we see people as “essentially oriented to the good” or as “basically corrupted.”

Rupp’s post mentions a. book by Dutch author Rutger Bregman titled Humankind. His book presents stories designed to illustrate his contention that humans are “hardwired for kindness and cooperation.” He suggests that while humans have committed many horrific and evil acts, they commit a vastly higher percentage of good ones. The problem is that those positive action receive a lot less public attention than the evil ones, with the result that we have a tendency to view others suspiciously, rather than generously, thinking the worst of them rather than the best.

As Rupp recognizes from her own experience the “essence of human kindness is everywhere” if we only notice it.

So, do you notice the people shoveling snow for their neighbors, as many in the Twin Cities have done after last week’s major snowfall? Do you notice those collecting goods for local organizations providing assistance to those being hard hit economically? Or do you only attend to stories of stolen packages of porches and similar venal acts?

What we notice affects how we respond to others, whether we view them with suspicion or generosity, whether or not we trust in the fundamental goodness of human beings or not.