Our society is replete with philosophies that say that when something bad happens between two people, they have each played a part in why the injurious interaction occurred. Many self-help books teach readers to assume that they have “co-created” any emotional wound that happens to them. Therapists are fond of saying, “Let’s look at what you brought to that interaction,” after a client describes an experience where he or she was mistreated. And you’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “It takes two to tango.”
These philosophies do not apply when we’re talking about human cruelty. In the vast majority of cases where people are subjected to cruel treatment, they have done absolutely nothing wrong. And in the few remaining cases where they have done something bad, it’s still unacceptable to be cruel to them.
There are, of course, some times when two people are equally responsible for why a hurtful exchange…
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