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

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

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 most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards 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 basically good nature of people, went astray when he choose to use the word “good” instead of the word “right” in his statement. I, like Smith, believe that people are born with a 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.

(Since I first wrote this article years ago, Will Smith won and Oscar on the same night he walloped Chris Rock across the face for making a joke of referring to his wife who is losing her hair to alopecia, as GI Jane. Yep, Smith walked right up in front of everyone and slapped the crap out of Chris Rock in front of the world. I bet when he woke up the morning of the Academy Awards, he probably didn't say to himself, I think I will whack Christ Rock in the face tonight at the Awards Ceremony. I also am sure that Will Smith thinks he is a good person. Smith's abusive choice to take aggressive physical action adds a unique spice to the narrative of this article.)

Dozens of celebrity gossip Web sites posted articles about Smith's original 2007 comment, many saying that Smith believed that Hitler was a "good" person. Now they are writing the same gossipy articles about Will Smith's actions. Which proves that still in 2022, short sighted and negative interpretations make better news.

What I believe Smith was attempting to communicate in 2007 was that somehow Hitler, in the act of betraying all that was good inside him, had rationalize 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. Isn't it interesting that Will Smith did the same thing, justifying his attack on Chris Rock as "right" because he was defending his wife that he loves.

This thinking and justification is always the same twisted and ridiculous thinking that perpetrators use when attempting to justify their out of control behaviors. It is the same argument gang members use 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."

However Will Smith betrayed his better judgement in front of the watching world.

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 human kind?

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

Dawn Billings is the founder of and author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles and architect of the Primary Colors Personality Tests and Insight Tools and founder of

Dawn is the executive director of the Relationship Help Resort and creator of the 26 week relationship help online program Relationship Help At Home.

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

Dawn is the inventor of the parenting tool called CAPABLES, and OverJOYed Life and the Happiness Curriculum.

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