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Why Are Criminals Often Indignant?

Many people with a criminal background act entitled and better than others.

Key points

  • Indignation is a chronic state in many criminals.
  • It may result partly from unrealistic expectations.
  • Criminals often see themselves as the center of the universe and feel wronged by others when events don't go their way.

During the Netflix series Ozark, an FBI agent comments to another one of the characters, “Why is it that criminals are always so indignant?” The person is outraged and snaps back, “I’m not a criminal.”

Aside from insisting that they are good people at heart, criminals are constantly on the verge of outrage, indignant because others fail to confirm their lofty opinions of themselves and do not meet their unrealistic expectations.

Robert, age 16, was offended daily because his parents did not act as he thought they should. He complained to a therapist that his father’s acting “like a police officer” was completely unwarranted despite his history of stealing from his dad’s wallet, joyriding in the family car, shooting out lights on their property with his BB gun, and “borrowing” his father’s credit card to order items on the Internet.

As for his mother, Robert stated, “Sometimes, I don’t like the way she acts.” He was irate when she tried to limit his screen time: “I lost my cool and slammed the keyboard on the ground.” On another occasion, he demanded that she get off their landline phone so he could use it. (His cell phone had been taken away temporarily.) He recalled, “I ripped the phone from my mom’s ear,” after which he unplugged it.

Robert expressed indignation at anyone who found fault with him, expressed distrust, or refused to do what he requested. This teenager harbored intense animosity toward an uncle who knew him all too well. Robert explained, “I hate talking to people about myself. I get moody when people talk to me about myself. The harder they pound on me, the harder my head will get.” This teenager lived with a smoldering anger.

Two inmates, Tony and Doug, were speaking loudly in their cell at 11:30 p.m., well past the time that the jail was to remain quiet so others could sleep. A deputy approached the two men and asked them to tone down the volume of their conversation. Tony said nothing, while Doug apologized. While walking away, the deputy heard Tony speaking even more loudly. Returning to the men’s cell, he warned that he would be writing up a “conduct report” because Tony was continuing to disturb others and refusing to obey a standing rule. In response, Tony screamed at the deputy, “Punk ass bitch.” He was furious that his freedom to speak was being restricted. In his mind, he should have been free to do whatever he wanted without interference.

Chris, a murderer, described himself to me as “too willing to please” and “very passive in relationships.” Told by a counselor that he lacks empathy, he shrugged off that observation as not applying to him and retorted, “Everyone has flaws.” He followed this comment by relating how he had shown empathy while committing a crime. When he carjacked a vehicle with a child in the rear seat, he said that the boy couldn’t possibly have been frightened because he assured him, “The worst you’ll see is me dying.”

Chris was furious that others regarded him as cold-blooded because he voiced no concern as to how terrified the youngster must have been. But this was not what Chris wanted people to think. Thus righteous indignation erupted at the counselor.

Wronged by Life

Sixteen-year-old Albert unrelentingly criticized his parents both for being too involved and not at all involved with his schoolwork. He had insisted to his therapist and his parents that he was mature enough to take care of his own schoolwork. Weary from years of homework battles, lies about schoolwork, and dealing with Albert’s hypersensitivity when they questioned him about school, his parents decided to back off and not question him but be available if he needed their help.

For months, Albert told his parents that he was regularly turning in homework and that his grades were improving. His report card said otherwise. Any attempt to discuss the charade that their son had engaged in was met with righteous indignation. Albert blamed the teachers, his school counselor, and primarily his parents for his continuing poor performance. When his mom and dad were actively involved, he accused them of not trusting him and being overbearing. When they stood back, he accused them of not being interested and leaving him to struggle.

A criminal who regards himself as the center of the universe constantly feels wronged by life. He takes offense when others disagree with him, do not accord him the respect he thinks he deserves, or interfere with his plans.

The criminal has an endless list of grievances when others do not do as he wants. As one young offender stated, “It has to go my way. If I don’t get my way, I get irritable.” Repeatedly, others fail to confirm the criminal’s inflated self-regard and thwart his plans. If he does not prevail, he thinks he is being treated unjustly. He responds self-righteously, sometimes violently, as he claims that he is being harassed, unfairly treated, and not understood.

Throughout most of his days, the criminal seethes with indignation because others do not affirm his view of himself as superior, powerful, and always right.

The FBI agent’s observation in Ozark was accurate: Criminals are often indignant.


Netflix series: "Ozark"