Justin Bieber

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Dang it, Justin Bieber, why are you making this so hard?!

While plenty of people have piled on over the past couple years, casting him off as a spoiled, can't-handle-the-early-onslaught-of-success type, we're willing to bet that even more fans—avid Beliebers and beyond—have been actively rooting for his continued evolution. Because he doesn't seem like a bad kid at heart and otherwise it would just be such a waste of obvious talent...

But he's trying our patience.

After the Comedy Central Roast about 15 months ago that jived with his 21st birthday, it seemed that the turning over of the new leaf was in full effect. He had that emotional performance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, every day put more space between him and his past legal troubles, and he had a stirring showing at the Grammys in February. Heck, he even won a Grammy!

There was that naked picture issue while he was on vacation, but otherwise, his inevitable ascent into manhood was bearing fruit. (Hmm, maybe joining those two observations in one sentence wasn't a good idea...)

Justin Bieber, 2016 Grammy Awards, Show

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Even recently cutting back on his meet-and-greets and limiting his picture-taking with fans could be construed as a sign of maturity.

So what the heck was he doing playing fisticuffs in Cleveland last night?

After watching the Cavs halve Golden State's NBA Finals lead to 2-1 at Quicken Loans Arena, he spent a couple of hours at Barley House, personal security in tow, and, according to the bar-restaurant's owner, Bieber's a regular when he comes to town and is "always really polite." Moreover, he "seemed relaxed."

No wonder the owner--if not the rest of the world--was surprised to find out that Bieber had gotten into a physical fight barely an hour before he showed up at Barley House approximately around midnight. Which, of course, someone Snapchatted and sent to TMZ.

With all of that security surrounding him, how did any sort of confrontation escalate all the way to punches being thrown? And why was there any confrontation in the first place?

No more of these trouble-just-finds-you excuses, Justin.

We have no doubt that it does find him, but that whole boy-becoming-a-man thing needs to include Bieber knowing how to steer clear of it in the first place.

Though while this will undoubtedly cause a new wave of people to wash their hands of the lad (if anyone even cares enough at this point to think one way or another about it), it is still not time yet to give up on Mr. Justin Bieber.

Pursuant to our parenthetical, though, if he never stops never stopping, the amount of people with a vested interest will dwindle.

In the meantime, however, he's only 22, and considering he already seems to have weathered enough embarrassing moments and bad decisions to fill the diary of a much older man, he has nowhere to go but down as far as stupidity quotient goes.

If he doesn't, we've got a problem, but since even his worst moments have been indicators of immaturity and poor choice of hangout buddies rather than more dire, deep-seated issues... There's plenty of hope. For now.

Take Lindsay Lohan, who empathized with Bieber from afar even after he made a crack about her (which he apologized for) on Instagram in March 2013, when his behavior earned him comparisons to Lohan at her lowest. Most of her 20s were just no fun—either to watch or for her, in hindsight at least—but now, with her 30th birthday just a few weeks away, she's out of the woods. It took a move to London, but it happened, and whether true movie stardom is ever again in her future, a real misstep would come as a shock.

"My heart was like, 'Ooh, this is never fun, it's never easy,'" Lohan told The Sun earlier this year about reading of Bieber's travails in the tabloids. "It's just s--t. I was just like, 'Stop driving fast cars. Just don't do it.' Literally, don't. Drive a station wagon."

And if she was frustrated, you can imagine how those far closer to home felt watching Bieber unravel.

Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun

Jeff Kravitz/AMA2015/FilmMagic

"That was very confusing for me...What I learned was that every story sometimes has an arc and everyone who had been through it said, 'Teenage acts don't become adult acts, it's very rare,'" Bieber's longtime manager and mentor Scooter Braun said on Charlie Rose just last month, talking about the diciest days when Bieber was his own worst enemy.

Braun continued, "People just told me to give up and I said, 'I'm not going to give up on a young man because I think, in our society, we have this tendency of telling young people, 'Live your dreams, become successful.' And then the moment they become successful, we belittle those dreams...And for a year and a half I tried everything, and I failed, and one day something happened, personal—it's for him to tell the world—but he made the conscious decision to make a change.

"I got a phone call, we met, and he knew that we had been struggling with each other 'cause I wasn't OK with it...[but] he made a conscious decision to change. And once he did that, we put things in motion to help him go through that process. He came out on the other side and I think there's an arc to that story."

Life may be a journey, but where the road ultimately takes Bieber is still very much anyone's guess.

Despite last night's setback, we shouldn't yet assume that it's useless to root for him. If he had never been in trouble before, the fight could have been shrugged off as a 22-year-old being dumb (or at least very unlike Taylor Swift's version of that tender age), or even chalked up to sports rage—the common downfall of boys (and plenty of girls) of all ages.

Yet it was a violent encounter, Bieber still has all the trappings of fame to deal with and, if too many more of these peccadillos pop up in the wake of his supposed big awakening, the hole he's been trying to climb out of will only get deeper and the path forward only murkier.

So let's just say that arc isn't going to be mistaken for a rainbow anytime soon.

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