I don't believe that people who do bad things are always consciously aware of what they are doing. I'm not talking about criminal behavior, I'm talking about the day-to-day not-niceties that people inflict on each other.
Part of my life's philosophy includes the notion, "You can't blame a dog for being a dog." Kids generally goof up until they're taught proper social behavior; a poorly timed burp might require some manners updates, and now the kid knows it's not acceptable to let fly at will.
We receive guidance from the day we're born, at home (at least if the parents have any sense at all, a huge assumption to make these days), in school, etc. But there isn't always a rulebook for adult social behavior. We take our cues from those we admire, or want to emulate.
There are a couple of people from whom I receive good tips for different aspects of my life. I've always been big on trying to be respectful, but there were a few things I did, ideas I had, that weren't exactly on target until I heard stories from these people in which something upset them. I would think to myself, "Wow, I did that once," or "Oh man, you mean that's wrong?" Behavior that I thought was very polite was in actuality quite the opposite.
In two instances, I've cited lessons I was "taught" by the words written by these people I consider role models, and was met with odd looks. The thing I'm curious about is this: Do any other grown-ups out there still have role models they look up to? I know I do, and I try to "behave" because I know these folks wouldn't approve if I didn't; in other words, I try to live up to the standards they set because I believe I'm a better person for it.
What's your take? Do you have role models still?