The overarching conclusion I came to, no matter my age, is that "people are mean."
Did I grow up in the Chicago Projects or Fort Apache the Bronx where I saw unspeakable things? No. Did I grow up abused or abandoned so that my perspective has now been permanently tainted? No. I grew up in the wealthiest town in my state with two parents for most of my childhood and all the creature comforts one could want, plus wealthy extras like luxury vehicles, boats, a pool, country club, extended vacations, and occasionally, a maid. My perspective should have been the opposite.
So how, at a tender age, did I come to the conclusion that people are mean? By simply watching them, what they do, how they speak, and how they treat each other, over and over and over. The pattern is clear. People are mean.
Now, if you are in the camp that believes "people are mostly good!" or even "people are mostly good, deep down..." you hold the opposite view of the years of my observations and more importantly, the opposite view of what God's word tells us people are like. No, people aren't mostly good. People are mean. Here are just a few verses which remind us of our true nature and our true relationship with God.
Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-5, Romans 3:10-11, John 3:19, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 1:18, Proverbs 14:12, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 8:7.
I'm all grown up now but I'm still an observer. I am a teacher's aide (AKA para-professional). I spend my work day in classrooms and on playgrounds and in cafeterias watching children. Did you ever notice children playing puppets? They start out all nice and good, and the puppets are doing normal things, but the "play" almost instantly descends into one puppet biting the head off another, or the puppets fighting. If boys are playing dinosaurs, it won't take long before one dinosaur bites the head off something whether it's another dinosaur or a toy soldier or the other kid's finger. Though many children are sweet or nice or kind, their sin-nature eventually reveals itself.
The Doctrine of "Total Depravity" is one that people who think we're mostly good, or even partly good, find odious. Total depravity is a misnomer in that one way people who lack knowledge of it interpret it to mean that all people are completely depraved all the time. That isn't what total depravity means. It means,
The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being. (source)A better term is "Total Inability." This means that because our sin nature has extended to all part of us in everr nook and cranny, this fact prevents us from being able to respond to the things of God on our own, in any way. Of course, this doctrine is at "total" odds against Arminianism, which its adherents claim we are able to "choose God". Of course that's "total" absurdity. Read this short essay by R. C. Sproul to see why. Or see this below from a different source,
The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). (source)Just watch kids, you'll see. The simplicity of the child's faith is on display but equally is their wicked heart quickly seen. The miracle and wonder is that while we were still sinners, Jesus loved us.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).
That while our hearts were darkened and we followed evil and reveled in it, Jesus died for us.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)