One of the most frustrating things in life is bad people seem to get away with being bad. We’re told in Eastern religions that Karma follows the cause and effect rule where an individual’s intentions and actions contribute to their future in this life and in their rebirths. Boy George said “Karma is a chameleon.” I’m not sure that’s what the original religious people were going for, but any chance I have to reference Boy George I take it. In Christianity, we’re told that you reap what you sow (Gal 6:7b, para), which follows this idea. Of course, Christianity also teaches the importance of grace, but from a logical standpoint, we still need justice on some level and have a desire for karma. Unfortunately that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Sometimes good people just get messed over. The worst story I heard was from someone I did a wedding for who said his mom wouldn’t be at the wedding because she had years ago had an affair and left the family. Affairs happen, but what made his story crazy was in the divorce his mom got half the house and then half the business. Since the dad was a farmer, she ended up with three-quarters of the farm (it was the home and business) leaving the dad with a quarter of his original property. Maybe that was a case of the dad hiring a terrible lawyer, but sometimes awful people seem to win or at least get away with it. You could argue the mom got what she deserved by not being invited to her own son’s wedding because her own son disowned her, but if she could do what she did, would she even care? As a psychotherapist, I hear lots of stories, and sometimes I meet some really good people who get seriously messed over, especially in divorce, so do we really reap what we sow?
Years ago, I had been involved in my former high school for five years between volunteering, coaching, student placement for teachers’ college, supply teaching, and teaching a class for a semester. I had kids in my youth group there along with my sister who helped me become friends with a number of the staff. I was so appreciated I was included in the yearbook when I was only a supply teacher. I felt very accepted and at home there… Did you just hear “Duhn,duhn, duhn, something bad is about to happen”? Because that’s what’s coming. One May morning, after supply teaching an art class that I thought went quite well, I was called down to the principal’s office. As a teacher, you expect it’s for paperwork or a change of schedule, but when I got to the office, I was brought into a room where my union rep was waiting with the principal and vice principal – that’s not good. I was told there was a complaint against me and I was going to be escorted out of the school by security – what? I would then have to wait to be contacted by the board of education and have to meet with the disciplinary board. They couldn’t tell me what I did or who made the complaint – what? It was the most horrifying moment of my life. Finding my dad dead on the floor from a heart attack was horrible, but this was a new level of pain because it was like my own life was exploding before my eyes and I didn’t know why. It took four very long weeks of trying not to over think before I could be seen at the board and be told what happened, which was its own traumatic experience as I’m a processor and terrible on the spot. The accusations were ridiculous, but overwhelming. After that blur of an hour, I had to wait another three weeks to be told what my punishment was going to be without any hint of whether anyone else thought the accusations were ridiculous or not. The end result was the lowest form of discipline, which meant I had to complete two classes on proper behavior of a teacher where I learned that all the things I was just taught in teacher’s college two years before were wrong – that was fun. Did you know students shouldn’t know anything about their teacher like whether they’re married, have kids, been anywhere interesting, or have any life lessons or personal examples to help a lesson? Did you know if two kids are making out in your classroom, you shouldn’t bring attention to it because that would be embarrassing for them?
And why did this insanely traumatic and unnecessary experience happen? An EA who had been in the class, an EA I had been careful to be nice to because she was prickly, had made a complaint to the office about me without any hint that she was upset. She was an EA who had spent the class I covered colouring a picture instead of helping the student beside her like she was paid to do! Did I say anything to her? Nope, it wasn’t my place. Should she have said anything about me to the office? Nope, it wasn’t her place, especially when she didn’t talk to me first and I hadn’t done anything anyone else would’ve cared about. If she had talked to me like a proper person should, I would’ve happily apologized and explained the misunderstanding, but instead of being a decent person she went for my throat (i.e. passive aggressive).
What was the result for me after all of the trauma she caused? She set my career path back two years, and was the main reason I gave up being in the teaching field. More importantly, my trust in people and organizations was shattered… again. I’ve been backstabbed hard a number of times, but this was by far the most emotionally damaging experience I have ever had. This EA won the gold medal in being damaging.
And what happened to this EA? Nothing… at first, but stories spread fast. Soon, all the staff heard an EA made a complaint about a teacher and she was done. What teacher wants to risk having someone like that in their classroom? The last I heard, she ended up leaving the school and started fresh somewhere else, but even then rumors travel. By being vicious to me and proving she has very low social skills and compassion for others, she ended up hurting herself. She reaped what she had sown.
That being said, did hearing about her pain make me feel better? No. Her pain didn’t make mine feel any better; I still lost two years and trust. That’s why revenge doesn’t work. We may want to hurt others so they can understand what we’re feeling, but that doesn’t bring healing. Someone else’s punishment doesn’t reduce our pain.
Here’s the reality:
- Miserable people live miserable lives, and others are collateral damage. This EA was a miserable person who had a miserable life and I was simply collateral damage.
- Good people live good lives… sometimes. People who have thankful hearts and see the good in life will enjoy it more than if they were miserable, but you can still have a difficult life depending on your family connections, choices you make, and general luck of the draw. Plus, sometimes it’s hard to avoid the miserable people making you at risk of being collateral damage no matter how good you are.
- Some people are too good, and that really messes them over. There is a difference between being nice to a point and being a doormat who gets taken advantage of. Unfortunately, people in this category end up the most hurt out of everyone because they’re too worried about making others happy even at their own expense, which is a difficult habit to break.
In my situation, I was living the best I could at the time, but that didn’t matter; I still got messed over. Fortunately for me, this woman was obviously miserable and had a miserable life. Knowing this made it easier, but other times, the miserable person who hurts us is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and can fool a lot of people into thinking they’re good when they’re the most evil people in the world (i.e. masters of being passive aggressive). I have definitely seen people like this and it’s infuriating because these bad people seem to get whatever they want while the actual good people suffer. The only consolation in situations like this is these people may get what they want, but they’re still not happy since they see themselves as a victim and stuff doesn’t make you happy, the right heart does, and they don’t have that.
So what do I do about this?
- I need to work on having a thankful heart and being as good as I can be for my own benefit and to limit the hurt I cause others.
- I need to work on being forgiving and letting go of the pain that people cause by looking for lessons and what’s good even in the worst situations. For instance, the dad of the son getting married may have lost three-quarters of the farm, but he still had all his son’s love.
- I need to work at surrounding myself with good people and make choices that help my life be as good as possible. It’s amazing how making good choices makes our lives easier and less stressful. It’s so simple, yet so few follow this rule (e.g. people who are too good make bad choices).
- I need to recognize how strong I am and trust my own abilities to survive miserable people especially when I’ve survived what I have.
- I can pray a David prayer like “Dear God, make these people suffer, so they can see what they did or at least be limited in the hurt they cause others in the future.” In the Psalms, David often asks God to punish his enemies and open their eyes, and it can feel really good to say words like this out loud. The hope is this sharing will give you release and free yourself of worrying what happens to the other person since it’s being given to God to handle.
- I need to limit how nice I am because the people who are too nice are the ones who end up the most hurt. Bad people are miserable, but they don’t get as hurt as people who are too nice because these people get taken advantage of and dumped on. These people need to be careful to develop healthy boundaries to protect ourselves as we need to be “good to a point” like we want to be “patient to a point” and “generous to a point.” We need to love others as ourselves and not at our expense. I meet a lot of good people who miss this point as they are obsessed with pleasing everyone but themselves and assume they’re the only one to blame. It takes two people to have a conflict and one person to be miserable.
This week may you see ways to protect yourself from miserable people.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)