Tag Archive | "human behavior"

The Question

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“One man come in the name of love,

One man come and go.

One man come he to justify,

One man to overthrow.


One man caught on a barbed wire fence,

One man, he resist.

One man washed on an empty beach,

One man betrayed with a kiss.”


— Pride (in the Name of Love) by U2



The Irish rockers’ hard-driving eulogy to Dr. Martin Luther King infers the question of what possesses one soul to perpetrate hatred and violence, another to act in a peaceful and humanitarian manner, and yet a third to cover his derriere by refusing to take a stand either way.  A more careful listen to Bono’s verses reveals an even deeper puzzle: the very crux of human behavior. Or perhaps more accurately, the influences that drive it.


Like many business professionals who interact with individuals from all walks of life operating on varying levels of authority, the same question burns often in my brain; it burns daily, in fact.  Like a defective car engine, it grinds over and over, going nowhere.  I have yet to find a definitive answer to the mystery of why people do the things that they do.  What makes one person a role model and another person one that you simply want to roll over … behind the wheel of your car … and then back up and do it again?  Is it circumstance and environment that mold our perspectives?  Is it faith, the belief that there is something greater than ourselves to whom we are accountable?  Is it is a response to our cumulative, distinctly personal life experiences or rather, to a single shattering epiphany that turns our life view upon its axis?


While I remain bereft of an answer, human nature in all its dizzyingly diverse, jaw-dropping glory and ignominy continues to fascinate me. A mere handful of the mesmerizing enigmas to which I have been privy include:


The woman dying of cancer with grace and good humor while her relative, watching her suffer and in her very presence, complains of his minor aches and pains …


The celebrity haughtily refusing to sign autographs for the fans who have made her famous and another celebrity who, treated crassly by his followers after one of his show-stopping performances, embodies the concept of grace under pressure…


The immigrant who toils so hard, her fingers literally bleed while her granddaughter, raised under the woman’s own roof, grows up as lazy as a sloth…


The man who engineered the merger between two Fortune 500 companies, one of the most humble souls I have ever encountered, and later that same day, the secretary who thought she walked on water…


The women two-timed by the same louse, each of whom was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that her rival “wore the horns” while refusing to lay a lick of blame at the scheming cheater’s feet …


Written out in its entirety, my complete list would no doubt circumnavigate the Earth.  Twice!  And yet, as with a scab that never heals, I continue to scratch at the question of human nature.  Along with Bono, popular country music band Sugarland asks similar questions in an attempt to define “Love” in their recent hit of the same name:


“Is it a veil or a cross?

Is it the poet’s gift?

Is it the face that has launched over thousands of ships?

Is it making you laugh?

Is it letting you cry?

Is it where we believe that we go when we die?”


The song’s writers, Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush, and Tim Owens, may have hit upon something with that last line.  Those who believe in reincarnation are also possessed of the notion that human souls must pass through many lifetimes in order to learn nine major life lessons, and that our refusal to learn those lessons is the catalyst for positioning us, again and again, into our human frailties, triumphs, and tribulations.  Perhaps, when I learn my final lesson and come face to face for the last time with my God, He/She will be kind enough to share with me the punch line to the infinite, head-scratching joke that is human nature. 

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