As part of my day job—writing scripts for web-based training programs—I came across some information developed by the Institute for Global Ethics. Surveys conducted worldwide have consistently identified a group of values that people of all cultures and nationalities recognize as essential. These universal values are:
Sociopaths violate all of them.
Perhaps that’s why those of us who are ethical, who care about others, who want to live cooperatively among our neighbors, feel so shaken after a collision with a sociopath. These predators take the qualities that people all over the world consider essential to the social contract and stomp on them, run them through a meat grinder and then pulverize them.
But they don’t tell us what they’re going to do. (Or if they do, we think they can’t possibly be serious.) Instead, they mouth eloquent words about their loyalty, trustworthiness and caretaking. We believe the words. Eventually, however, we discover that the words are empty, and their behavior reveals their true attitude: To them, the universal values of humanity mean nothing.
Then we, trying to extricate ourselves from the sociopathic relationship, lose our footing. We suspect that no one really cares about honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness and compassion. We were the only chumps who took these qualities seriously.
The good news is that we were right in the first place—most people in the world do respect the universal values. As we heal from our traumatic experiences, we’ learn how to differentiate those who do from the sociopaths who don’t.