25 July 2012


I'm convinced that one of the reasons that so many people tend to be unhappy is that they tend to generalize far too much about the world.  I see this tendency pretty consistently in my students' papers--they write about how "no one" helps other people any more, how "everyone" cheats when they get the chance, how "nobody" values family any more, and many similar ideas.  But I can't agree with what they say at all, for two reasons.  First of all, as a writing teacher I know that using such generalizations is almost always inaccurate, and secondly, I know from my own experience that there are people who care in this world, and there are many people who most definitely value concepts such as family and honor and honesty.

When we talk a lot in generalizations, we put the world into a little box that we basically define ourselves.  We think we know what the truth is, and more than likely, that truth is unpleasant.  It's very easy to blame our problems and the problems of the world on the way that "people" are, for that absolves us of all responsibility for our own personal perspective, our outlook on life and the world and the people with whom we share the world.

Personally, I noticed my tendency to generalize quite a while ago.  It made things easy for me in a way, but not in a pleasant way.  What I would say when I made such claims simply wasn't true, yet I was claiming that it was, and I was convincing myself that life was more negative than it actually happened to be.  So now I'm careful to avoid the generalizations that can keep me focused on what isn't good in life--and I probably would be completely wrong if I were to make any sort of generalization about the negative ways that "people" are.  This world is a beautiful place, and many, many, many of the people in it are very good people.  If I'm careful to avoid generalizing, then I can be sure that I won't be bringing myself down by seeing the world more darkly than it really is--and it really isn't dark at all, is it?

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