• David Redding

Good Men and Bad Things


A child divides men into two categories: the good and the bad. They have to do that because their minds are not yet developed sufficiently to understand how a good man could do a bad thing or have a bad thing happen to them. Comprehending that apparent paradox requires the mature mind of an adult.


When I was a boy I sometimes thought that I would become a police officer or a doctor when I grew up, not because I was interested in either job but because I thought it would inoculate me from a bad thing that scared me. If I was a cop, then I would never commit a crime or have to go to jail. If I was a doctor, then I would never become sick. Loss of freedom and disease being frightening to me, it seemed logical to my child-mind that they could be avoided by entering a particular status.


Cops don’t commit crimes, they catch criminals. Doctors don’t get sick, they treat sick people. And, more generally, good men don’t do bad things or have bad things happen to them. Ergo, to avoid bad things (in commission and receipt) required only that I be a good man.


That childish idea persisted in my mind far longer than it should have. I was into my forties before I realized that I wasn’t a good man and my efforts to be one were futile and self-defeating. Regardless how good I thought I was, I still did bad things and had bad things happen to me. Likewise, regardless of how bad I was I still (occasionally) did some good things and had good things (undeservedly) happen to me.


When I accepted the fact that I am not a good man I was freed from the guilt, shame and confusion of the bad things. Instead of trying to BE good, I started focusing on DOING good and letting the result of that be what it is.


That’s a far easier way to live.


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