the perfect psychopath

This is interesting. The other evening I was leaving a charity business event and talking to a person I know, not a friend, more like a mentor (but not really) as he waited for his car (I’m a subway guy, natch). Basically he’s someone I’ve known in business for a long time. At any rate, as we were talking about the evening and various other things, he suddenly turned to me with a hand on my shoulder and asked if I thought he was a kind person. “Haa ha”, something to do with a girlfriend” he said, and I replied, very quickly, that no, he was not a kind person.

He was taken aback.

“What do you mean I’m not a kind person? I talk about kindness all the time, I do these charity business events, I give my time and money to help people…what about me isn’t kind?” His tone was pleading but I saw no pleading in his eyes. As our relationship was in its second decade and we’d been frank and honest most of that time, I replied as frankly and honestly as I could. I answered “I say you are not a kind person because I have never actually experienced any kindness from you. I have never seen you being truly kind…spontaneously being kind to any person, animal or thing. I have never seen you pick up a check unless forced to by business decorum, for example, or unbidden, reach out to help another person who needs it but has not asked. That’s not kindness, that’s strategy…that’s how psychopaths act.”

I continued “I also have never seen you acknowledge a waiter or bartender or car attendant—and especially your employees—with anything other than the expectation that they are doing a job for you. I don’t know anyone who also knows you who could provide evidence of any situation where you were spontaneously kind…only kindness forced by the circumstance, social or business. Again, that is strategy, not kindness. Kindness has to be spontaneous, it has to be a rote or automatic response or it isn’t kindness at all.”

His expression never changed and, in fact, was going slightly toward a smile, I felt, so I went on, “You are a brilliant person, in many ways and especially in business, but you are not a kind person, you are not someone who’s first thought is not your own but of those around you. I hear you talk about kindness and all the things you do related to kindness but have seen zero evidence that any of it exists…not real kindness…it all seems staged. I’ve seen you use words of kindness as a means to manipulate people and events toward your goals—not that you were ever being “unkind” of course, you are not an unkind person—but still it wasn’t kindness that motivated you. You always seem to have a plan, an end state that you’re driving toward and, honestly, kindness has nothing to do with you getting there.”

I was done so simply stopped talking and he hadn’t said anything the entire time. In fact he said nothing for another full minute when suddenly his face went into total smile mode and he clapped me on the shoulder and said semi-conspiratorially into my ear “Trevor, you’re more and less right than you know…and let us leave it there.” And he walked away, smiling of course, toward the valet to get his car.

Interesting, yes? But not the truly interesting thing, I think.

What is truly interesting is if you replace the “person” I know, in that conversation, with any “religion” and you replace “kindness” with “connection to god” and you’ll find that it works the same. Not exactly but it works the same.

Think about it.

Religion constantly talks about its connection to god yet can never show any evidence that this exists. Religion does not spontaneously do anything unless it helps religion first and foremost. Religion has an end state it is driving toward and it will say what it needs, and use whomever it must, in order to get there. Everyone knows about religion and what it says about itself over and over…but no one can show any evidence that supports its claims.

Religion, it seems, is the perfect psychopath.

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