Rotten apples come from healthy trees

It seems obvious, no?

If someone comes across a rotten apple, there’s only so much you can say about it.

“That apple is rotten” seems pretty reasonable.

“That apple comes from a terrible tree” – well, not so much. No apple tree is so healthy that it can never make a bad apple. Take the healthiest apple in the world – vibrant, colourful, crisp and overflowing with sweet aroma – and leave it in the sun.

That’s all it takes.

You could call this the genetic fallacy, where you assume good things come from good sources, bad things come from bad sources, and there are no exceptions.

You could also call this a dumb way to think about people.

I’ve had this argument more times than I can count. Folks see bad behaviour and they assume it comes from a bad intention.

They see someone not scooping up after their dog and declare that person evil and selfish.


More folks have been called evil than have been evil.

Behaviour can be good or bad. It can lead to positive outcomes or huge disasters. That tells you nothing about the person or their state of mind, though.

Rotten apples come from healthy trees.

Bad behaviour comes from good intentions.

Yes, even the most twisted actions you can think of qualify. Only cartoon supervillains do evil for its own sake. Hitler’s legacy is one of blood, misery, hate and death, but (in his mind) he was protecting his country.

Even serial killers kill for relatable reasons – to be seen, to feel safe, to be free from pain…

If you think people do bad things because they’re bad, you’ll spend most of your life confused and frustrated.

Thinking like that also caps your personal growth.

If you don’t learn to see the positive intention behind your own bad habits, you’ll fight your ‘stupidity’ and ‘weakness’… and lose.

Alternative approach:

Accurately see what you do and why you do it.

It can be hard to see your own patterns, though.

That’s where I come in:

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