Sounds like almost a small thing, doesn’t it? Like a minor flaw. But without empathy, people not only can’t judge good and evil, they don’t care. Without conscience, people’s evil has no “brakes” and careens out of control, wantonly destroying whatever is in its path, no matter how undeserving. Sociopaths care only about getting caught. They ironically see themselves as superior to normal people, see others as objects to be manipulated—and are proud of their ability to con, trick, deceive and lie. They attack good people not merely in spite of their goodness, but because of it; kindness to the sociopath is only vulnerability, one more trait to exploit. They cling, need and use, but they don’t love. They seem blissfully ignorant of ways they’ve hurt others. When caught in the act, they lie with surprising alacrity. They are the victim; the person who accused them is the cruel one to say such things! Yet when they think honey will catch the particular flies they happen to be after at the moment, their personalities are more honeyed than any you’ve ever known. As Stout says in the book, “…charm…is a primary characteristic of sociopathy.”
Although many criminals must be sociopaths in order to commit the crimes they do, not all sociopaths are criminals. In fact, most are not—simply because they can be so talented at avoiding justice. According to Stout, four out of every one hundred people is a sociopath. One out of twenty-five. One in every average-sized classroom. How can that be? The more covert sociopaths are extraordinarily good at keeping themselves hidden. They “mirror,” or imitate, good people—not because they want to be like them, but to do what they do best: take advantage in order to manipulate. Though you may not know it, there is a very good chance that you know not one, but several. As Stout says in the book, “…by far his most impressive talent is his ability to conceal from nearly everyone the true emptiness of his heart—and to command the passive silence of those few who do know.”
Jules and her mother responded to a very obvious kind of sociopath by exhibiting the opposite response—showing empathy. That struck me as so perfect. Jules says we cannot comprehend evil, nor should we try. Maybe we can’t know what that hideously cold lack of empathy or conscience is like, but when we directly experience seemingly random attacks, don’t we automatically ask why? Don’t we have to?
Jules mentions in a later post that it’s hard to feel so much, hard to feel other people’s pain. Yes. But it’s rewarding, too. As Stout says, “…the awareness provided by extreme conscience improves people’s lives and makes them happy.” Sociopaths, with their furious, terrified need to control, aren’t able to enjoy the truly good things in life that the rest of us automatically embrace.
Her words reminded me of something I recently read in M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie that I’ll use as today’s quote. And thank you again for being so inspirational…and for shifting the balance of power in the world.