“Discrimination” has come to be a dirty word. It brings to mind unfair treatment of individuals because of race, religion, gender, national origin, physical disability, sexual orientation or some other broad categorization. People have been killed, beaten, denied jobs, denied housing, prosecuted, persecuted and denigrated because of some demographic category to which they belonged.
All of this applies to one meaning of the word “discrimination.” But there is another meaning that is vitally important when it comes to sociopaths. Here are the two meanings according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
- Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit.
- The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.
So far, we’ve been talking about the first meaning. In the United States, there’s always been a moral tradition against this type of discrimination. In church, we’re taught that “we’re all God’s children.” In school, we learned that “all men are created equal.”
For generations, though, the words were one thing, but practice was another. So laws were passed to prohibit discriminative behavior and to encourage redress of the violations of the past. This is generally good. Yes, some people take advantage of these laws, but the intention—a level playing field for all—is admirable and right.
I remember when this effort was just getting underway. I was a teenager when the feminist and black power movements began in the United States. When I was in junior high school, a question raging among my classmates was, “Do you believe in women’s lib?” In college, I was once asked, “Do you believe in black quarterbacks?”
Now, the questions seem so quaint that it’s hard to imagine they were seriously posed. Today’s young people don’t even seem to need the concepts of “political correctness” or “diversity awareness.” They appear to be inclusive of all groups of people. This is terrific.
But there is a downside to all this inclusiveness.
It seems that in our efforts to be non-judgmental about groups of people, we also hesitate to be judgmental about individuals.
Based on what Lovefraud readers have said in telling your stories, it seems that most of us are moral, caring, considerate people who want to live productive lives and help our neighbors along the way. We are inclined to realize that people have problems and give others the benefit of the doubt. We want to believe that everyone has good within them.
When we run into a sociopath, this mindset can be disastrous. It leads us to keep lending assistance, keep believing the apologies and the promises to change, far longer than we should.
Where sociopaths are concerned, we must discriminate, in the second sense of the word. We must develop “the ability or power to see or make fine distinctions.” We need to know the signs of a sociopath, and when we see them, get the person quickly out of our lives.
The problem is, until we’ve tangled with a sociopath—and probably had our lives close to ruined because of one—we don’t even know that we need to discriminate, let alone how to do it.
I’ve written before that sociopaths are evil. People take issue with this terminology—it seems to have religious implications, or at the very least, convey a message of intolerance.
In The People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck, M.D., defines evil as “that which seeks to kill life or liveliness.” Evil, he says, has to do with murder—which can be either physical murder, or murder of the spirit.
This is what sociopaths do. If they don’t physically kill us, they suck out our emotions, energy and resources, until we have nothing left, not even our sense of self. They murder our spirits.
There are millions of sociopaths living among us, ready to commit this type of murder. But instead of being taught that they exist, what to look out for and when to discriminate (the second definition), we are taught that it is wrong to discriminate (the first definition).
Yes or no
Sociopaths cannot be identified by any readily apparent characteristics such as race, religion or gender. Every demographic group—men, women, rich, poor, all races, all faiths—includes some sociopaths. They can only be identified by behavior.
We need to know how to spot these evil people. The essence of discrimination, as in discernment, is learning when to say yes and when to say no. We must say “no” to sociopaths.
Tolerance is generally good for society. Sociopaths, however, do not deserve it.