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People Mean Well, Don't They?

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No Offense but…

People mean well, don’t they?  I mean, usually.

Oh yeah, sure, there are hate mongers out there. 

But even when they are spreading lies, or terrorizing people or attacking their fellow human beings, it’s because they have decided that their beliefs; political, religious, or whatever, are more important than the other person’s freedom, or their right to choose, or even their lives.

In their mind, they’ve justified what they are doing.

They’re wrong.  We are right?  I mean, come on, am I right, or what?”

So I get that everyone thinks they are doing the right thing. 

And if, perhaps they are willing to admit that what they aren’t doing isn’t exactly honorable, or worse, that they are doing something kind of nasty, or even openly wrong, they find a way to justify it.

“Everyone else is doing it.”

“I need to pass this course.”

“We must do this. For God and Country.”

“Look, we have to make sure we meet our stock dividends this quarter.”

“Yeah, sure, bullying is bad, but I’m not really bullying, and besides, that kid is realllllly annoying.”

“I’m just worried that you’re using this ADHD stuff as an excuse.”


This is actually an important thing to get.  Everyone is doing what they think is the right thing.

Or, okay, the least awful thing.  As in, “Hey, I don’t want to cheat people, but if I tell people about the problem with the sewage, no one will ever buy this house.  Besides, it’s their fault for not getting an inspection.”

I mention this because one of the things I hear very often from people, including myself now and then, is, “I can’t believe they said that about ADHD?”

Or, “Why would anyone say something that ignorant and hurtful?”

Or, “What was Miley Cyrus thinking?”

In other words, “How crazy are they?!  That is just so wrong!!!”


We are all doing the best we know how, based on what we know.  Or on what you believe. 

So if you believe that ADHD is made up and the medications are dangerous and in the good old days kids just got a smack on the head and that was that…

Well, then you’re going to say things that other people might find hurtful, cruel, or pig-ignorant.


We all believe we are right.  Right?  The problem is, if you agree that there are two options, being right or being wrong, it’s complicated. 

After all, I never got more than about 90% of my answers right on a test in school. 

The odds that I’m going to be 100% right about everything I think and do, now that I’m not getting marked for it… Awkward, right? 

I mean, I have ample proof that I haven’t been right about choices I’ve made way more often than I’ve been right.

If there are only two choices, RIGHT or WRONG on average, you can only be right 50% of the time. Maybe 80% if you’re a genius.  Not being a genius, I’m well aware I’m lucky if I bat 20%.

However, I bring you good news.  There aren’t two choices.  It’s never just RIGHT or WRONG.

In fact, I’m going to suggest there are as many ‘right answers’ as there are people on the planet. 

Sounds crazy, right? 

You may be thinking, “What? Okay, that’s wrong. He’s wrong!”  And you may already have 150 objections and arguments to prove I’m insane and you’re right. 

Can you put that list on hold for a minute?

Try listening for something else.  A bigger perspective.  Something that’s almost, well, kind of funny. Something liberating.


But be warned, this may be really hard for you to accept.  It was for me. 

But if you have to courage to try it on, as an idea to consider, it may actually give you a great deal of power in dealing with people who appear to be crazy, or drive you crazy, because they believe in something other than what you believe. It did for me.

Here it is: There are no right answers.  Or wrong answers.

It all depends.  All of it.

“Woah, Rick, are you saying that this is NOT a chair that I’m sitting on?  Because I believe it’s a chair!  So does everyone else in my office.”

“Well, to you it’s a chair.  To a Berliner it’s a Sessel.  To an antique dealer it’s a1920’s Mission-Style, Ebony Oak Ladder Back seat. 

To someone else it’s an investment.  To an Amazon tribesman it’s potential kindling.  To a cat it’s a napping spot.  For a house painter it’s a step to reach the top of the wall…”

But okay, I know, I’m not blogging about the question of whether that’s a chairs.  I’m talking about the stuff that upsets you.  The stuff that has you screaming, “What are they talking about?  How dare they say that in front of my kid?!”

For example, “My mom is such a nag.”  That’s a popular one.

Is it true? 

You could argue, “My mom is a nag.”  Or you could admit, “My mom worries a lot about me.” Or you could say, “My mom is lonely now that my father is gone I am all she has.” 

Or, “My mom just wants me to be happy, and if I wasn’t so defensive, she’d might actually have some good advice.”  Or, “I can’t stand when my mom tells me stuff I should be doing.” 

Or, “I just noticed I go nuts over stuff my mom says because part of me believes she might be right. She’s actually expressed a fear I have.”  Or… well, make up your own story.

In fact, you will.


If you are a teenager, (or you have been a teenager at some point,) you know how teens feel about their parents.  Embarrassed.  Ashamed.  Dismissive of them.  “My mom is such a nag.”  Or whatever.

But then your friends would meet your folks and say, “Gee, they seem okay.” 

And you had to explain that, “Sure, they seeeeeem nice, but that’s a big act.  I mean, did you hear her telling us to not to have an accident?”  And your friends would look at you, ‘Well, you just got your licence…’

If you are past your teen years, perhaps to the point where you have teens of your own, at some point you may find yourself telling them to take care, drive safely, and don’t have an accide… 

“Oh my God!  I’m turning into my parents.”  Delivered in a tone that says, “I’m a monster!  A horrible monster!”

If you’re lucky, at some point you’ll actually realize that you’re telling your teenager, “Don’t have an accident!” because you had an accident not long after you got your license. 

If you are open to seeing a better explanation than, “I’m turning into my mom,” perhaps something like, “I love my kids more than anything,” well, then eventually you may come to a different belief about your own parents.  Something way better than, “What a nag!”

Perhaps something that makes you grateful, like, “My folks did the best they knew how. I mean, the stuff they went through, it’s amazing.  But they always wanted the best for me.”

And if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll actually be able to tell your parents that.

Because you know that if one of your own kids said that to you, it would mean the world.




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  1. kristinaw September 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you for that Rick. I carry many scars from having a boy with ADHD – now a successful human being in every way. Still, the experience colours the way I see certain situations. I am currently reacting very strongly, and to me surprisingly so, about the lack of understanding of a man with a brain injury by fellow residents. They are shunning him and I can feel myself becoming very angry at a level that is a surprise to me. No doubt this man’s reception reminds me of the hard years in my boy’s life and the lack of helpfulness from other parents. That is notconstructive. The other residents have their own demons that y causes them to be fearful, unforgiving and unhelpful. I have to try to work through my distaste for their reactions and remain calm and hopeful. Hard work.

  2. pcoyne September 6, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Thanks Rick, your message resonates with me and I am grateful. I appreciate you putting the time and effort to help others with this condition. Please continue to do so. The world will be a better place.

  3. kristinaw September 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Another point: When I attended an ADHD conference, I was struck by the despair of the parents. How they worry and don’t know what to do. The conference was very useful and this web site has added to that immensely. Thanks.

  4. Blue Yugo September 7, 2013 at 12:13 am

    “Treat people as you want to be treated yourself. You’ll never have a problem in life.” – Len Wareing, aka “Mr. Used”
    …but I’m sure 99% of people have a hard time living up to that standard.

  5. forbes September 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. It was very entertaining and reminded me that everyone does the things they do for their own reasons, and from their point of view they are doing the only thing that they think is right. Growing up requires us to remember that we were wrong, are wrong, and will be wrong. I think the hardest thing to do is accept that being wrong in its self not a bad experience, but rather a chance to learn (I do feel the need to point out that learning is indicative of you surviving the being wrong, cause we all have been tempted to cut the blue wire instead of the red one every once and a while).

  6. Rick September 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Great comments.
    Clearly I’m not the only one who’s finding this. Forbes, allowing yourself, and others, to be wrong is such a gift. Every great writer has an editor and does multiple drafts and rewrites and proofs.
    Every painter paints over, or tosses canvases aside.
    Every famous singer started out off key. Every guitarist struggled to learn chords. Every researcher follows multiple dead ends before making a discovery.
    I love the compassion here. For everyone. It’s the only thing that will save us all. It’s easy to want it, it’s obvious it’s important, but you are right, it’s a real challenge to be able to be that way when someone pushes your buttons.
    But then, that’s okay. That’s just something you’re working on. Something you’ll get better at. Like the singer who started out way off key.

  7. blackdog September 13, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    But…What if the other person really is wrong?
    Sorry, but I just had to say that. One of my biggest frustrations in life is never being listened to. For some reason everyone seems to be entitled to their opinion but me. And it is really frustrating when I *know* I’m right.
    But the world would be a better place if everyone learned to listen to me…*ahem*….that is, if everyone learned to be a little more tolerant and understanding.

  8. redbandit14 September 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

    WOW. Powerful stuff Rick. Thank you. I think i knew or maybe know this but …. It is certainly hard to remember on a daily basis!

  9. megramaz October 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    As a parent I know I am doing the best that I can, right now at this moment. It’s not the best possible, or even the best my child needs, but it’s the best I can give at that moment. This was a little mantra that I have repeated to myself over & over since my daughter was born, & I was quite (read; very) proud of myself for being introspective enough to know that.
    …….Until, one day I realized that if it applied to me, it had to apply to my Mom as well. She did the best she could at that moment, & it was all she could do, it’s all anyone can do.
    I am not proud to say what a shot in the gut that was for me to realize; 1) Because I’d blamed her for a lot, & 2) Because I applied it to myself so quickly, yet it took me so long to apply it to her, & 3) Because I was SOOOO proud of myself for being able to ‘let myself off the hook’ while firmly grasping to keep her ‘on’. But once I did realize she did the best she could, it helped me get over a lot of resentment, hurt & anger that I’d held on to for far too long.
    Understanding that we ARE ALL “Doing the best we can” even when that’s not enough, (especially when that’s not enough), can bring a whole lot into perspective.
    Thank you for the great post Rick!

  10. ladygogo January 27, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    This was so moving.
    Thank you.
    I’m going to share it with my husband.

  11. james9 January 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Boy this is timely. It has me thinking about a couple of friends I have, a difficult customer I’ve been avoiding, and someone in our ADHD support group. I’m going to read this again in a few weeks.

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