Understanding Bad Behaviour

Understanding Bad Behaviour

by Jacquie Wise

When someone close to us behaves badly—be it letting us down, taking advantage, verbally attacking us … it presents a painful challenge. It’s easier to let go of disappointing people if they’re not close. But family? How do you remain compassionate? How do you remain emotionally detached? Ease your pain by looking at a bad behaviour from the perspective of a soul’s journey.

Image – two people arguing

These are the times it can help to think with your soul:

Your mind is outraged at the injustices perpetrated against you.

Your heart is hurting and already grieving about the loss of the person you thought they were.

Only your soul can carry you through this kind of disillusionment and give you the strength to let go.

How I learnt this:

I understand now that someone very close to me is a full-blown narcissist. That means she was unable to empathise with anyone else. She had a huge sense of self-importance and entitlement and believed her needs came first.

The list of symptoms goes on. Suffice to say she was always a very difficult person to deal with.

I’m putting her in the past tense because I had to cut her out of my life, no matter how much I loved her.

For years, I had tried to negotiate or find a compromise. It was never possible.

Over years, I’d given her a lot of money and rescued her every time she committed some idiocy. I always wanted to be there for her, no matter how badly she treated me (and everyone else, for that matter.)

In turn, I was consumed with grief, outrage, anger, sadness…

How could she behave like this? She was older and should be more mature. She should realise how much hurt she’s causing—how could she not see? How could she not care?

Finally, I realised all the ‘shoulds’ I was imposing on her

Yes, sometimes, people should know better. It’s difficult to accept that their behaviour is caused by ignorance. We tend to believe they know what they’re doing and are making hurtful choices intentionally. Uncaringly.

But the reality is, they don’t know better. If they did know better, they would do better. They would meet all our ‘shoulds’.

I allowed my soul to take over how I was thinking

Shift your attention from logical thoughts and leave your emotions aside for a minute. Look at an individual’s behaviour from the perspective of their soul’s journey.

When you see little kids of say, three years old, struggling to tie their shoe laces, you notice that those tiny fingers can’t quite get around the loops and loose ends. You might be amused and think ‘Oh how cute’. You might be tempted to help. Or stand back and let them give it a try in their own way, at their own pace.

You don’t judge that they’re stupid and SHOULD know how to tie shoelaces. You accept that, at this stage of their development, they haven’t yet acquired the motor skills that allow them to be able to tie shoelaces.

You know this skill will come, as they grow a little older. Even if you’re not directly involved with kids, you have a basic understanding that children go through age-appropriate stages of development.

Learn to look at a person from the perspective of their soul’s journey

When people behave badly, you will always be hurt and frustrated If you focus on their behaviour.

Focus your attention instead, on the fact that this is a soul struggling to learn the lessons of life. They may not be succeeding as well as you judge they should.

But this part is not about you. The part in which you are learning how to handle things is about you. But their behaviour is about their journey.

They’re like little kids trying to tie a shoelace. It’s a task beyond their capability at this stage of their soul’s development. Age and maturity have nothing to do with it.

It’s to do with the lessons they’ve chosen to learn in this life. It’s to do with what stage they’re at. ‘Shoulds’ don’t enter into it.

When I looked at my difficult person in this way, I was better able to react with compassion and without judgement.

I had learnt to be more assertive and set boundaries, so she taught me something that I valued. I’m grateful for that.

But boundaries were never respected and there were personal attacks, blaming and bullying, to add insult to injury. In the end, I had to decide to cut all contact. That was a twenty-year process, by the way.

I was able to let her go with warmth and love, wishing her well on her journey. I do still feel the loss.

But she has her lessons to learn through the consequences of her behaviour. I have my lessons to learn through the choices I make.

Sometimes, it’s best for us to develop away from certain people. I found it a lot less painful letting her go by looking at the situation from the soul’s perspective.

If you do decide to cut someone out, there needs to be a loving process

Never just dump someone. Talk as much as you can, to explain your perspective. If they won’t listen, then let them know you’re thinking of cutting all contact.

Give a few warnings, over time. Maybe they’ll finally get it. If not, then you explain that this is the moment you’ve decided to terminate the relationship, even if it’s a family member.

If you are the dumpee, then you have to accept that the person is not able, at this stage of their soul’s development, to deal with you or the situation any better.

Remember, if they knew better, they would do better. They just don’t get it, at this point. This, you have to accept and stop wishing that they ‘should’ be different.


If someone is behaving badly in your life, take a look at what they’re doing from the perspective of their soul’s journey. Respect your emotions, but also take a compassionate view if they’re not capable to meeting your expectations. They’re just not ready yet.

Reflect on your own spiritual growth: what benefits are you gaining from their behaviour?
Are you learning specific life skills through these experiences? Or perhaps you’re gaining some wisdoms about life, about people or about yourself. There is a reason they’re in your life. What is it? It’s usually a two-way process—lessons for them and lessons for you.

There is no guarantee that you’re learning what you need to learn. The opportunities are presented to us. Whether we take them up or not is another matter.


I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here. You can give me your feedback, ask a question by email or post a comment below.

If you or someone you know would like to see me privately, please call +61 3 9690 8159.

Take charge of your life with Jacquie Wise.

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