Self-betrayal: Is it the root of all evil?

Will Smith, an actor I enjoy, was incensed over celebrity gossip Web site articles that he said misinterpreted a December 25, 2007 remark he made in a Scottish newspaper about Adolf Hitler. Since 2007 misinterpretation, or words twisted to make a political statement have only gotten worse. There seems to be little grace these days and what can be misinterpreted, depending on your political leanings, will be misinterpreted by your enemies. It used to be that our enemies were people who wanted to destroy freedom of speech but now, enemies are simply people who disagree with your speech.

The quote Smith said was misinterpreted "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the evilest thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using twisted, backward logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good,'” originated from a story published Saturday, December 23, 2007, in the Daily Record.  

I think Smith, in his attempt to make a statement about what he obviously believes is the basic good nature of people, went astray when he chooses to use the word “good” instead of the word “right” in his statement. I, like Smith, believe that people are born with basic goodness inside, which causes them to feel anxiety when they betray that goodness. In order to lessen or ameliorate their anxiety, they deceive themselves into justifying or rationalizing their actions so that they can feel “right” about them. This process is called “self-betrayal” and it is at the root of most of the repugnant and angry actions people take against each other. 

Over that late December weekend, dozens of celebrity gossip Web sites posted articles about the comment, many saying that Smith believed that Hitler was a "good" person. I believe their interpretations were short-sighted and negative but it seems that negative interpretations make better news. What I believe Smith was attempting to communicate was that somehow Hitler, in the act of betraying all that was good inside him, had rationalized and justified the heinous and horrifying acts that he was responsible for perpetrating on humanity, by convincing himself that they were somehow “right” and therefore necessary. This is the same twisted and ridiculous thinking that gang members use today when convincing themselves that those in rival gangs need to be murdered, or people with differing religious beliefs use when they justify killing themselves and other innocent people by turning themselves into human bombs.

Smith did not believe that Hitler’s actions were good, in fact in a statement released by his publicist, he responded to those who had suggested he considered Hitler “good” by saying, "It is an awful and disgusting lie. It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation. Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet."

So why do human beings betray themselves and their God-nature, because they feel entitled; entitled to DO or NOT DO what their hearts whisper is the right thing to do. Feelings and attitudes of entitlement will lead us to betray ourselves, those we love, our country, our faith and more. Entitlement is the source of all misery and unhappiness and because it whispers it is okay to betray what is best about us, I believe it is the root of all evil.

In order to act in opposition to what is most good about being human, we must justify and rationalize and convince ourselves that we are “right” about behaving in ways that are wrong.

Instead of convincing ourselves that we are “right” about things that are clearly not right, what if the resolutions could include fervent dedications to listening more closely, loving more purely, and trusting more faithfully all that is good about being humankind? 

(To learn more about how to understand and limit “self-betrayal, I recommend you read the classic book Leadership and Self-Betrayal by the Arbinger Institute.)


Dawn L. Billings is an author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles. Dawn is the executive director for the Relationship Help Resort and author of the relationship help curriculum Relationship Help At Home.

Dawn is the architect of Primary Colors Personality Tests and Insight Tools and creator of

Dawn is the inventor of the patented parenting tool called CAPABLES and creator of OverJOYed and author of the Happiness Curriculum.

Dawn is also the CEO and Founder of The Heart Link Women's Network with locations in the US, Canada, and Australia.


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