scary.2   I’m a good person who would never do anything to hurt someone else. And if you don’t think so, then you don’t really know me at all.

In this capitalist, commercially-driven society, we’re bombarded with marketing messages from thousands of companies branding their message and image into the public consciousness. Unfortunately, we’re emulating these companies whenever we try to build our own, personal brand. Everyone is issuing “press releases” about what a great person they are, and the rise of social media has only made these messages more prolific… and annoying.

Scroll through your Facebook news-feed and read between the lines of your friends’ posts. From the ranting and raving of your Internet Social Justice Warrior (We all have at least one.) to the post from the hipster, housewife, blue-collar badass, etc. Read between the lines. What are they really saying?

I’m more evolved than you.

I’m more loving than you.

I have a better sense of taste than you.

I work harder than you.

It goes on and on, and as a writer, I’ve become somewhat adept at reading between the lines. When it comes to declarative self statements, however, no special skills are needed. There are plenty of people out there who are more than willing to put it bluntly so that there’s no mistaking their message. These are the folks that will come right out and tell you, “I’m a good/loving/compassionate/etc. person.” They put it out there point blank so there’s no mistaking what they want you to believe about themselves… their favorite subject.

The thing about declarative self-statements is that they’re NOT factual, no matter how forcefully it’s stated. Yet this doesn’t stop the person from saying it… and expecting – no, demanding – that you believe them. Maybe they’re the type that thinks the louder you say something, the more inclined people will be to believe it. Or perhaps they’re so used to their social media fan club (We all have one.) coming in to like and comment on these types of posts.

“I agree! You’re the most wonderful son/daughter/father/mother/brother/sister/friend/neighbor a person could ever ask for!”

Perhaps I’m getting cynical in my old age, but I wouldn’t dare attempt such a post… or statement. Case in point, take the statement that kicked off this post – “I’m a good person who would never do anything to hurt someone else. And if you don’t think so, then you don’t really know me at all.” Many of my FB friends – those who know me in real life – would likely sit back and say, “Who the fuck is he fooling?”

Truth be told, I would be a fool to actually think – let alone say – that I’ve “never” hurt someone. From little “jokes” to pointed “observations” of people’s behavior, I’m fairly certain that I’ve said things that have hurt the feelings of at least a few of my friends… things that I likely, at the time, tried to write off as “jokes” or “observations.” (I’m just trying to help, etc.)

Even some of my erstwhile bullies might say that they only picked on me because I said or did something that was “deserving” of their special brand of attention. Some of them might not have appreciated my carefree, sarcastic outlook on the high school social caste system, as such an irreverent attitude might have undermined their emotional investment in it. Others could’ve simply perceived me as “walking around, thinking I’m better than everyone.” Thus, they might believe their actions as justified. (As declarative self-statements go, “I wouldn’t hurt anyone unless they did something to deserve it” is a fairly popular one.)

And what about the times I’ve physically hurt people? I’ve admitted to enough of this right here on Facebook, and no matter how justified I think my actions, I’m sure the other person has a different take on what went down.

Here’s the simple truth: none of us are as good as we think we are. A cursory look through history – personal or otherwise – easily proves this. We’re nothing more than monsters in ill-fitting human skins, ruthlessly driven by our self-interest. It’s only our gift of language and ability to deceive ourselves (and others) that makes these pursuits appear better than what they – and we – truly are.

But I’ve rambled on long enough. You were saying something about being a good person…

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

*Artwork generously donated by Steven Michael Pace of Flint, MI.

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