I've heard of Occam's razor as long as I can remember, but I had never heard of Hanlon's Razor until a recent episode of Jeopardy! brought it to my attention.
Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
While Occam's Razor has its roots in ancient philosophy, Hanlon's Razor is much more recent (1980?), possibly inspired by Murphy's Law ("Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.").
Hearing about Hanlon's razor made me wonder how many times in my life I have assumed someone has intended by their actions (or inactions) to hurt me, when in reality they were not motivated by malice at all, but by a lack of attention or understanding or even indifference - I won’t say “stupidity”.
I would guess that I am not the only person who has occasionally noticed that conversation ceased when I entered a room and was struck by the thought that the people inside must have been talking (unfavorably) about me before I came in. In all probability, the lull in the conversation just happened to coincide with my entrance, and the people involved in the discussion were not thinking of me at all.
I'm probably also not the only person who has become frustrated at hitting red light after red light on a drive (especially when I'm in a hurry) and then decided that the universe is out to get me. "Why is this happening to me?????", I might scream internally (or externally). In reality, the timing of the traffic lights has absolutely nothing to do with me. The computer that controls all that business doesn't even know who I am.
I suspect many of us have had thoughts that our spouse (or child or parent or friend or whatever) does things (or does not do things) just to spite us. "Why does he leave the toilet seat up? He knows that drives me crazy!" "Why does she run the vacuum cleaner right in the middle of my favorite show? She could do that later, but she is purposely doing it now to aggravate me!" "Why did someone drink all of the milk except one tiny sip, and put the carton back in the refrigerator? Everyone knows I need milk for my breakfast cereal! They are trying to drive me batty!"
In reality, probably none of these actions (or inactions) are due to malice, just thoughtlessness, a lack of attention, being wrapped up in our own selves. Next time we feel that others are acting with malice toward us, maybe we should give them some grace and then resolve to be more aware of others when we are moving through our daily lives.