“Am I a good or bad person?” Oddly enough, if you ask a question like this to yourself you’re likely a good person… emphasis on “likely”; just because you ask this question doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to be a good person. Bad people have asked this question too; it’s just unlikely unless they’ve been ditched by everyone they know, which can happen… you know because they’re “bad”. I define a good person as someone who is able to love others and themselves in a healthy balance; they are better at acting in love rather than selfishness. Meanwhile, I define bad people as those who lean too much in the “love” themselves side and are selfish; life is all about what’s best for them even at the expense of others. Of course, when it comes to understanding good and bad people there is more than just two basic categories; it needs to be graded on a scale… as I always do:
Bad Person (-10)————–Good Enough Person (0)————–Too Good Person (10)
I like scales like this because they point out that we can be ‘too much’ (‘Too Good Person’), ‘too little’ (‘Bad Person’), and ‘just enough’ (‘Good Enough Person). Yes, I was influenced by Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For this scale the ‘Too Good’ side are people who overemphasize the importance of others over themselves. They give too much, try too hard, and blame themselves too much. They’re people pleasers who put so much pressure on themselves to be good, patient, and kind they end up hurting themselves (oddly enough this in turn reduces how many people they can actually help). People on the ‘Too Good’ side are also at risk of feeling overwhelmed with wanting to help everyone, they can become resentful from feeling taken advantage of, and they can be anxious about not being helpful enough and/or being used again. Ultimately, the nicest people can sometimes end up the most alone because they become so afraid of being hurt again they shut everyone out. (In case you forgot the definition of a good and bad person is in the first paragraph)
The downside of using scales is it requires self honesty, and a bad person won’t likely see themselves on the ‘Bad Person’ side even though most people who know them would be like “You’re clearly a terrible person.” From last week I discussed passive aggressive behaviour and the sad thing is anyone who’s passive aggressive will think they’re ‘Too Good’ while others will be like “But you suck!” This isn’t to say that passive aggressive people can’t also be overly giving, but their giving is usually connected to ‘and now you owe me.’ Their giving comes with a cost. At the same time, the ‘Too Good’ people are at risk of assuming they’re the ‘Bad Person’ because they tend to be so hard on themselves. This of course makes the question of are you ‘Too Good’, ‘Good Enough’, or ‘Bad’ tricky to answer especially if you don’t have honest friends who feel safe telling you how you come across to others. Our perception is likely skewed as we tend to be too easy or too hard on ourselves.
Fortunately I have found a couple clues that will help point out where you land. For instance, ‘Too Good’ people will say something like “But this is what I should have done differently,” while bad people will say something like “But this is what they should have done differently.” See the difference? ‘Too Good’ people blame themselves while ‘Bad’ simply blame the other side. And this means if you’re good at deduction you’ll know that a ‘Good Person’ will consider both: What should I and the other person have both done differently? This, of course, is the kind of person I try to be… I didn’t say I am, but I try to be, and it’s also the kind of person I try to teach others to become. The problem is our natural tendency tends to go one way or the other.
Here’s a second trend I find in therapy: People who say “But I’m a good person,” are the ones most likely to be involved in an affair and/or be the best at being passive aggressive (aka they’re good at making others feel like garbage); meanwhile, the nicest and good people (aka ‘Too Good’) I meet tend to be incredibly hard on themselves (aka passive) and are more likely to say “I’m not good enough,” or “But I should be doing more,” or “I must have done something wrong.” Oddly enough, I’m yet to meet anyone who is in the midst of an affair (whether they’re the one married or they’re with someone who is married), and have them say “I feel so guilty,” or “Can you help me stop?” Instead, it’s always: “But I’m a good person.” This always makes me wonder: “So what does a bad person look like to you because people having an affair are never the good guy in a good movie?” The answer of what’s a good person versus bad tends to be relative. If you ask a thief, he’ll say “At least I’m not a murderer. They’re the worst.” If you ask a murderer, he’ll say “At least I’m not a millennial. They’re the worst!” There’s always someone who is worse and thereby justifies our bad behaviour. The sad reality is, as prison is full of “innocent” people, hell will be filled with “good” people.
Finally, I will point out that it doesn’t matter what a story was as a child, it can go either way. Tough childhoods can make people resentful or compassionate while a loving childhood can make people either entitled or carry on the loving spirit. There is no rule for how to make a good or bad person.
No one is always 100% good or 100% bad, but hopefully this week you’ll be able to see how you can be more in the middle.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people