What happens when we fail to take action against bad behavior

A few articles in the news recently illustrate a disturbing failure in that can be seen in a multitude of situations throughout society. These cases are from the U.S., but I imagine the pattern applies just about anywhere.

In Dallas, Texas, Antoine Flowers, hired for a top information technology post at Dallas City Hall, resigned after four months on the job. Two weeks later, he was arrested for stealing and pawning $10,000 worth of the city’s iPads.

The real question is how he got hired in the first place. Flowers’ resume stated that he’d worked as a software engineer at NASA, was a college education director and had served in the Army, with top-secret clearances. This did not raise any eyebrows at City Hall, even though he was only 26 years old, and no one checked his references. Needless to say, his entire resume was fabricated. Read:

Series of failures at Dallas City hall led to IT manager scandal, on DallasNews.com.

Rutgers basketball coach

Last week, ESPN aired videos showing the Rutgers University men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, verbally and even physically abusing his players. The clips show him shoving players, throwing basketballs at them, and yelling homophobic slurs. (This is the same college where a student used a webcam to post video of his roommate kissing another man on the Internet. The roommate jumped off a bridge and died.)

What’s disturbing is that university officials knew about the coach’s abusive behavior long before last week. The video was compiled by a former assistant coach, Eric Murdock. Murdock’s lawyer sent a letter alleging the abusive behavior to Rutger’s officials last July. After repeated requests, Murdock was finally able to get officials to watch the video in November.

At that point, Rutgers commissioned lawyers to investigate and write a report. The lawyers found that Rice was indeed abusive. So the coach was fined, suspended for three games and ordered to attend anger management classes. He was not fired until last week, after the videos were broadcast on national television. Read:

Rutgers officials long knew of coach’s actions, on NYTimes.com.

Colorado theater shooting

On July 20, 2012, during the midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman entered a packed movie theater with guns blazing. In the end, 12 people were dead and 58 injured. James Holmes was arrested outside the theater minutes later.

Court documents made public last week showed that a psychiatrist treating Holmes, Dr. Lynne Fenton, had warned campus police at the University of Colorado, Denver, a month before the shooting that Holmes was dangerous and had homicidal thoughts. A search warrant affidavit stated:

“Dr. Fenton advised that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made.”

Campus police deactivated Holmes’ university access card. It’s unclear if any other action was taken. Read:

Documents: Psychiatrist warned James Holmes was dangerous, on USAToday.com.

In each of these cases, not enough action was taken to address situations that needed to be addressed. Dallas city officials did not investigate an improbable resume and ended up hiring a thief. Rutgers officials did not fire a man who should not have been in a position of authority over students and it turned into a national scandal. No one reacted to a blunt warning about James Holmes and 12 people died.

Why was so little done?

The Dallas case is easiest to explain. If Antoine Flowers brazenly submitted a resume filled with outrageous lies, got the job, and within months stole from his employer, I’m willing to bet that he’s a sociopath. So he probably aced the interview, sweet talked any women involved in the process, and brown-nosed his superiors. We all know how sociopaths do it.

In the Rutgers case, university officials were more worried about lawsuits than protecting students. The lawyers investigated whether Coach Rice created a “hostile work environment,” which would mean that other Rutgers employees could sue and win. The college also wanted to know if the assistant coach had been wrongfully terminated. The lawyers cleared Rutgers on both of these issues, but added that Rice “did ‘cross the line.'”

“These improper actions,” the report added, “constitute grossly demeaning behavior directed at players, and occasionally at coaches, that do not appear necessary to build a high quality basketball program or to build a winning Division I basketball team.”

And the theater shooting? It seems to reflect the limitations of law enforcement in the U.S., and probably in other countries as well. As many Lovefraud readers have discovered, there’s little the police can do to prevent a crime, even when someone is known to be dangerous. Police can only act after a crime has been committed.

Reasons for failure to act

Failure to act in the face of wrongdoing, danger or evil is nothing new. For example, the fact that Adolph Hitler was rounding up Jews was widely reported by the media long before the U.S. entered World War II. Many people knew what was going on, but few took any action to either protect Jews or stop Hitler.

I believe there are basic reasons for our collective failure to act when action is appropriate.

First of all, as a society, we don’t acknowledge, or even recognize, that evil exists. We’re told that “there’s good in everyone,” “deep down we’re all the same,” “everyone makes mistakes,” “everyone deserves a second chance” and “we all just want to be loved.” Society does not tell us that there are exceptions to these platitudes. As many as 12 percent of the population are sociopaths—social predators who live their lives by exploiting others. Most of us didn’t know anything about sociopaths until we were personally targeted.

Secondly, taking action against bad behavior usually requires confrontation. Confrontation is at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous. Most of us would much rather avoid confrontation. In fact, probably the only people who enjoy confrontation are sociopaths.  They, of course, are the ones causing the problems.

There are other reasons why we do not act. We may feel that the problem is too big, and we’re too small, so there’s nothing we can do. We may fear —legitimately fear—repercussions or retaliation. We may simply want to mind our own business.

Sooner rather than later

Unfortunately, not acting tends to enable bad behavior to grow. Ignoring or downplaying the first hints of a problem often means that when we finally have no choice but to take action, the situation is bigger, messier, more costly and even more dangerous.

Trying to overcome our tendency towards inaction is like trying to change basic human nature. Usually, we’d just rather not get involved. Unfortunately, this is what enables sociopaths to wreak so much destruction.

I’m not asking anyone to go out and change the world. But I think we should pay attention to our own little slivers of the world, to the people and events in our own lives. And when we see trouble, we should take action sooner rather than later—even if the action is simply to extricate ourselves from the situation.

Many of us probably wish we had done exactly that regarding our encounters with a sociopath. It may be too late to address the past, but I hope we can remember this lesson for the future.

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38 Comments on "What happens when we fail to take action against bad behavior"

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Thanks for the link Dupey! I’ll certainly read that! More hugs and take care of yourself!

What did you learn in therapy to help you release the tears?! I have that problem too.It takes a sad movie and then they just gush forth unbidded,lol!

Did spath make it home tonight? (Loose Screw :)) How are things going?!

Hi Blossom: Thank you for checking on me. Yes, he made it home, so am doing laundry and setting up things better. Part of the extra work for the extra pay so to speak.

He started in very quickly with a big grin and he had missed me and I was his home. It was hard not to laugh. While in the hospital, he had called me every name in the book becoming enraged when I told him what the rules would be.

He keeps wanting to watch TV with me….I’ve tried not to much. I’m already tired and he has to have a surgery to fix the last one. One thing that is strange is he keeps doing things he should not be doing to his own detrimental physical health. I am moving canned goods up to where he can reach them and he sits on the floor without his walker close by so he has to lift himself up. He turned out hideous music while I was doing it and seems to be overexcited and I guess he thinks I feel the same when I don’t. I want my money. He is a good talker and we talked some after he got home yesterday. I found myself thinking, “Why can’t you be a real boy?” He really doesn’t know how transparent he is. Missed me? Really? A couple of days ago, he was calling me bi-polar! The phony just makes me laugh later.

The only truly nerve wracking part so far is his need to take risks of falling or making the leg bone worse before the next surgery. I told him today if he keeps making me nervous, he won’t be coming back from the next surgery. Stay on the walker. It’s like he’s regressed even more and thinks he is a teenager. I have been practicing my Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness work and watching TV and luckily he is sleeping a lot. It’s too bad he really isn’t nice, really doesn’t miss anyone, and is a spath. But he is and I don’t forget it. He is money in the bank and I am looking forward to the next surgery so I will get to rest even more. He should know that one more stupid fall caused by his own self negligence is just going to land him in the VA shelter. Who knows what their neurons are doing?

Mine are thinking of saving as much money as I can, hoping he will be well enough to pay me a few more years, knowing I will cry when he dies, and wondering why I will.

About the crying: I read in a book by Judith Orloff that different tears for different emotions have different chemicals/toxins in them and we have to get them out. I had a lot of support from my second husband and the spath before I moved in. A “deal” where I found I absolutely could not cry on my own and I could call one of them and then the tears would flow. They were both very supportive and the exhusband is STILL very supportive. I did immersion therapy. I watch sad movies on purpose, and over time, I have been able to cry on my own. But, I still do call my exhusband and cry at times. I would get very frustrated and angry which made me hold the tears in even more. It was a defense mechanism from childhood….not to cry. One thing I did for a while was yell into a pillow that I wanted to go home. Even 36 years later, I finally cried about being moved as a teen. Now, I do a pretty good job of it. I got frustrated yesterday about something that made me feel nervous about him coming back, and I was working too hard in the yard, and I came in tired and really cried. I read some Peter Levine about trauma recovery. It took me probably about 2 or 3 years before I “trained” myself to cry. I talked to my therapist about not being able to cry for two years, got the help with people willing to stay on the phone with me, watched things on purpose that made me cry, and most of all, when I started cry, I kept going instead of stopping myself which had become my instinct.

I chuckled as I read of your spath’s “homecoming” and how he was trying to be charming and not act like an invalid!My spath liked getting pity!You asked a good question: “Who knows what their neurons are doing?” I often wondered the same thing!Perhaps they’re working on deliberate handicap/some type of sociopathic gain.But it doesn’t always work out the way they figured!For instance,my spath thought I’d take care of him until I died.Then he’d just find another victim.Instead,he is in a nursing home…..his very aversion!And it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting out anytime too soon.

When I think back to what started my problem with crying,I realize I can’t blame it all on spath.I kept my stubborness well hidden,but even as a child,I had a sense of justice,and there were a couple of times that I felt I was wrongly punished(once by a teacher),so I stubbornly held my head up high and refused to cry even though both my feelings and my backside hurt!Also,one of the tragic events in my life was the death of my brother who was 23 monthes older than me.My mother turned to me for consolation.I was already an adult.But I held my grief in.I was actually so sick afterwards with the flu that I was literally in bed for monthes!

But life with spath was so stressful….and he always told me he didn’t want to see me cry….SO!That’s my story!

Blossom: I am sorry about your brother. That must have been awful. I think being the eldest child also has a lot to do with it. We get all of the really bad/abusive parenting before they figure out a better way to do things. I can remember many situations, including the big one at work, where I would feel like I needed to cry and than was determined that if I did, I might not be able to keep going and would not stop crying. Now, both sad and happy things make me cry and I am so glad when I cry for the most part….I do still pick on myself for being a “baby” sometimes. But, I know it is best for my health to cry.

Last night, I told Loose Screw Spath that he must stop taking chances unless he wanted to end up at the Vet Center. He agreed. He then tried a tactic that has worked for him in the past by upsetting me. He is a dry alcoholic. I said, “Is there anything you need?” and he said, “Yeah, I would like a watermelon”…and I laughed because I thought he was trying to be funny because he rarely eats fruits and veggies and I’ve never seen him eat watermelon…and he continued, “and I want you to do is fill it with vodka and put a straw in it.” I said, “Well, if that is the life you want to live again, you do need to take that VA apartment in a couple of months. I can tell you you can’t drink here, but if drinking is the way you want to go, you need to make up your mind about leaving.

Then, he switched and said, “Could you put in some ear plugs because I’m going to get loud.” YES. He actually SAID that! I said, “If you are going to get loud, I am not going to need ear plugs because I won’t be in here and if it is loud enough to bother my neighbors, neither will you.” He said, “I am really upset and I want to say something.” I said, “Well, everyone gets really upset and they say things and no one has to wear ear plugs. That kind of behavior is not going to be happening in my home any more.” He then very quietly and calmly told me that he was feeling very bad and his ego was really bruised because he can’t do anything and has to use the walker, has to have another surgery, etc.

I am empathetic of course….to a degree. If you drink and smoke and eat nothing but pizza and hot dogs for 45 years, you can’t expect to be healthy at 57. I said, “Well, it does suck. I have a 26 year old nephew in kidney failure right now. He is a young man and having to accept that he won’t have a life without assistance from others. He is on dialysis and never smoked, drank much or did drugs because he has been seriously ill since he was 17 because of bad luck. I believe you can do it as long as you stop taking risks of falling and eat properly. It’s too bad that you feel bad about yourself. I ONLY feel bad about YOU when you are a jerk, when you call me names, when you are verbally and emotionally abusive. On a walker or off a walker, the ONLY thing that makes me think you are not a man is when you act ugly and evil towards me or others.”

He really didn’t know what to do with that,so he didn’t respond. I told him that I felt bad that he was having to go through this, and that he really needed to get some rest. I did stay with him until he fell asleep. Then I came in to the part of my house where I live and watched TV and enjoyed my leisure time.

He was very docile tonight. I made some food for him and some stuff for him to heat up tomorrow. Part of the “job” so I get my bills paid and he was quiet and appreciative. At one point, he was very upset about his computer while I was cooking. He became obsessed with something unimportant with his computer. He was in his chair and I was sitting on his bed in between stirring and cooking and cleaning. I just watched him get mad at his computer and realized that he is very addicted to that computer. After his last surgery, that is the first thing he did when he got here, he turned on his computer and began doing things as if I wasn’t in the room! Then, when I got ready to leave and come to my place and rest, he says, “What do you have to watch on TV?” I said, “I don’t have anything but TCM” which he doesn’t care for. He said, “Well can I just come over there and sit with you for a while?” I said, “I have been sitting in here for a while and you were upset about your computer and fiddling with it the whole time. I am tired and need to eat and rest. Maybe tomorrow, we can watch a show we enjoy together. But, tonight if you wanted to talk to me, I have been in the room here.” He tried to explain about the computer problem….as I was leaving….yes, consequences when handled calmly and appropriately DO make a difference.

Well,here I am finally!Things are getting busier now that the weather is getting nicer! 🙂 I also had my granddaughter Friday night and Saturday….BUT THINGS WENT WELL! I’m ok as long as I take my med daily!And I made sure she was kept busy with activities!We had a pillow fight Friday night!I surprised her!She told me that her friend had seen me and was expecting to see an “old woman”…she said,”I told her my grandma’s not an old woman!”The other day one of my neighbors told me she thought I was in my 30’s.WOWEEE! 🙂 I’m 53!I just came back from taking my puppy for a walk;it’s so nice today!I only made it 1/2 block before my back started hurting.By the time I got home I walked a block,lol!

I guess my husband will be showing up more frequently at congregation services.Today makes the second Sunday in a row.I can’t judge his motives.But he looks so sad that I don’t come over and talk to him;he’s probably wondering if I’m really serious about not talking.His voice isn’t as loud as it was.I don’t know if he’s doing that to make me feel sorry for him,or if he has actually suffered lung and/or heart damage,but I’m not gonna ask him!!!

Your spath does have similarities with my husband;yet another one…computer addiction!He would come in from town,etc and head first thing for the computer….while giving me a never ending list!And then when I was too exhausted to do anything but plop down and wish I could sleep,he wanted to converse!

It is very lucky to be able to make it financially without them in your home. I would have to switch from any situation where mine was going to possibly try to see me. No place is worth that.

That is interesting about the voice thing. The entire time mine was in the hospital his voice would falter and be weak….until he started raging….and then it was back to his old booming voice again! I was really surprised that they didn’t call security and tell him to knock off the yelling. There are other people there. When he came home, I told him he was too loud and to put in his hearing aids….and now, guess what? He LOST one the next day. He said he has looked everywhere. I have looked everywhere. I think it’s a game, but how can one tell any more? When I told him he was extremely loud at the hospital and I thought it was strange that they put up with it, he got this really weird, proud look on his face, grinned and said, “Oh, they put me in a room all to myself at the far corner of the hospital floor.” I said, “I don’t blame them. They should have moved you outside for making all of that noise screeching.” The smirky, proud grin went bye-bye! I don’t want to play games, but I have learned that observing them in their unnatural habitat can be quite illuminating.

I am so glad to hear you got to spend time with your granddaughter without an anxiety attack this time. I’m sure it is much more enjoyable with the spath in the nursing home. She may never say, but the kids often recognize who’s a jerk more than we do. I am also glad Spring has arrived. My trees and plants are flowering and wonderful green leaves again. I have a little fountain and I love to go out back at night when it is quiet and just look at the plants and I love to look at the stars. There is a great big universe out there and the spath is a speck in it.

oh yes!Spaths and their games!I always told my spath that I KNEW he was playing mind games with me!Your spath lost that hearing aid on purpose more than likely.Look for him to NEED YOUR HELP ALOT.That’s how he can still control you.He’s not happy that you’re telling him you know what’s going on!

My granddaughter always told me AND her her grandfather how things were,to our faces,even before I left him!It didn’t bother her that we were adults and that she’s a child!Not only does she look like me,she has many of my qualities,such as a sense of justice.She tells her mom everything!So not only would spath “get it” from her,he heard from me and her mom!He was very unhappy!Yes,things are much better without him in the picture!


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