People aren’t inherently good or bad — we’re just humans

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 16, 2017

My daughter is an English teacher at Byhalia High School. She and I talk often about what she’s teaching and upcoming lessons she’s working on.

The other day she had her students write an argumentative essay in which they had to answer the question, “Are humans inherently good or bad?”

I answered, “good” immediately without much thought.

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Later in the day, all five of my grandchildren were at my house. They’re 7, 5, 5, 20-months and 17-months.

The 20-month-old, Julian, is a biter. He’ll bite anyone who makes him mad, and it’s Ahlyiah, the 17-month-old, who usually gets the worst of it. That’s because she’s the one generally making him mad by stealing whatever is in his hands.

She cries, and we make the two of them hug it out and tell Julian “no biting” in a firm voice.

The two 5-year-olds were arguing over a game. My grandson Adam went into his room and tried to close the door when Alexandrea pushed hard against the door, nicking Adam’s toe.

She was made to apologize, which she did grudgingly.

The 7-year-old, Arianna, used to throw the worst tantrums when she was 3 or so. But with time and the use of time-outs and stern lectures, she grew out of it and recently won an award for her good behavior in school.

All of this suddenly made me wonder if we are born “bad” and have to be taught how to be “good.”

But I’ve also witnessed the other side of the coin — when one of the babies hands the other half of their cookie or when the older ones share their crayons with each other without being told to do so.

I’ve seen real concern by the rest when one is sick or hurt and such love for each other and us big people that it can melt anyone’s heart.

We can be horrible. We can be selfish. We can be materialistic. We hurt other people. We hate other people for so many reasons you can’t count them all.

But we also love and work hard for our families. We give to charities. We help others in need when there’s a tragedy. Even the very worst of us can be capable of kindness in some situations.

We are born with some tendencies that could be viewed as “bad,” like being self-centered and not wanting to share our things and our parents and teachers teach us how to control those urges and hopefully, most of us listen and learn and win awards for being a great citizen.

We are born to love, yet many of us are taught to hate and those lessons are ingrained and passed down.

We aren’t perfect and nothing in life or in dealing with human beings is ever black and white. Almost every religion believes this in some fashion and that’s the reason we need something bigger than ourselves to wash us clean, knowing, we will never be completely spotless.

I would probably fail my daughter’s lesson because I realized, I couldn’t argue either way — we aren’t born either good or bad — we’re simply born human.

Alyssa Schnugg is Senior Writer at the Oxford Eagle. Email her at