Sunday, July 8, 2007

When Good People Do Bad Things...

"...If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Finding this quote buried in a friend's profile was a Godsend. It ties in a whole lot of analytical questions that I've had to ask myself since mid last year. It is actually an expansion of the sentiment that " always hurt the ones that you love."

I think most of us wish life was simple - that things were black or white, and we had a simple way of knowing those who would cause us so much pain and sorrow. It would definitely make things a lot easier if we could see such people coming from a mile away, if they had special markings and so on....OR WOULD IT???
Truthfully, life has taught me that it's usually the unanticipated things that cause us the most pain. If I knew someone was evil to begin with, I'd probably steer clear of them; and in any case, if they did do wrong by me anyway...well, I didn't expect anything better from them in the first place.

So, the real people to really be wary of are those for whom we hold the deepest of reverence in our hearts; those that we let close, those that make us vulnerable precisely because we allow them to see us in our most vulnerable of states. No wound cuts deeper than that delivered by those whom we love for this exact reason.

I'm not writing this post to give the impression that "Trust" is over-rated; rather I'm writing this as an answer for all those occasions when we find that those close to us have let us down. When the only question on our mind is "WHY?"
.....Why did they do it? Why didn't I see it coming? Was it something that I did? Was there something that I could have done? Why should I have to suffer if it wasn't my fault? How could someone so good do something so bad? Why did I let that person get in so deep?

We need to ask those questions to make sense of everything; to at least get as close to a semblance of "closure" as the situation would allow. Some people will be lucky enough to have the offending party talk to them and try to explain things as best as they can, which is about the most mature thing that occur under the circumstances. But going by humanity's dastardly record, I sense that most of us have had the hit-and-run experience where someone doesn't give us an adequate explanation; the task of understanding events and achieving closure is totally left up to us. Therefore, what my experience has taught me is that, of all the aforementioned questions already posed, the best question to personally answer is

"How could someone so good do something so bad?"

I will not turn this into a religious debate about good and evil just because I needn't go that far. Such a question simply borders on our free will and what we're willing to do with it. Few of us would ever doubt that our human nature is flawed, so it isn't really ridiculous to assume that, as humans, we are going to do a few thing unbecoming towards each other (especially those closest to us). But I think that we humans, religious or otherwise, have the capacity to know the difference between right and wrong even though it may not have been spelled out to us in the most obvious ways growing up; or at least, we can 'tell' when we're doing something wrong.

One of the most pivotal lines for this argument came from Al Pacino in the movie "Scent of a Woman:

"...Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why ? It was too damn hard."

I think, universally, across the board, we all know what the right thing is to do. Those people who hurt us or betray us, they know what needs to be done; they know that they need to dig in, apologize and try to make things right. But...what they "know" and what they "choose to do" is where the conflict comes in; and this again sets the stage for one of life's more obvious lessons,

"...All that is necessary for bad things to happen is that good people do nothing."

Everyone knows that it's easier for bad things to happen in this world; we actually have to work extra just to make sure that good things come our way, and to ensure that the few ruffians around us don't drive the rest of this world into anarchy. It's hard to be good in a world that usually won't reward you for it. But I sense that most people would choose 'good' any day over the alternative; it is the ideal way to live after all (...and you don't have to be religious to understand that!)

I spend even less time these days looking for the definitions of a bad person, because truthfully, some bad people do good things for those close to them. Rather, I just understand "bad" in terms of a 'lack of good', or 'a failed understanding of what good actually is'. But I have also come to believe in the redemptive power of apologies and forgiveness. We expect those close to us to be perfect, but that is usually a pipe-dream; what we truly expect, however, is that they would be wise enough to offer us an apology and try to make things right once the wrong has been committed.

Now, people have hounded me from time to time concerning how effective an apology actually is considering the fact that it might not even be "genuine"; and after all, it doesn't exactly fix anything, anyway. But I would counter that it takes great strength to apologize for something that we have done; it is an exercise in self-control to get over your ego, set aside your pride and try to make things right; (probably the best image for this would be Christ's challenge of 'dying to oneself'). And what you show the offended party is that though the bad deed can't be undone, at least you're sorry and you're willing to try to fix things. This then makes forgiveness somewhat easier.

Unfortunately, for those who never get the apology, it's still in your best interest to forgive the offending party. Believe me, I do not say this lightly because it is hard as hell, and it hurts like hell too. Being the 'bigger person' in the situation is extremely hard to bear for someone who doesn't even care enough to put your mind at ease in the first place. But, in my experience, holding onto all that bile, anger, disgust and hate just imprisons you; worse, it allows the offending party to exert a strength over your life by turning you into a bitter person. So, by all means, forgive the person.

...BUT DO NOT SELL YOURSELF OUT BY LETTING THEM OCCUPY THEIR PREVIOUS POSITION IN YOUR LIFE WITHOUT SOME FORM OF A DECENT APOLOGY. Forgiveness and an offer of friendship is humane, but a position within your 'inner circle' is always EARNED.

God Bless.


Anonymous said...

Are there people who are truly evil? Who don't have good in them?

I think you hit the root of the problem briefly, that those closest to us hurt us. Because we give them the freedom to, that is.

God was the same way. He created man, and man hurt him. He was closest to man, of all his creations, and man betrayed him.

But from there I disagree with you. I don't think the answer is to hold people at arms length, or not to trust. Jesus was a prime example of that. Rather than holding himself back, he threw himself in. That's why our book speaks the truth when it says "Greater love has no man than this, than one who lays down his life for his friends".

We don't lay down our lives for our friends because we're intolerant. We don't agree with everything the other does, and so we justify not caring about them because of that.

Richardona said...

As I said before, I\'m not trying to give the impression that trust is over-rated; in the same vein, I believe in letting people - a select few - into my inner circle (it\'s like that for most people).

But people should know that the greatest pain that they will ever feel will come from one closest to them (Remember Jesus & Judas!)

I\'m not telling people to steer clear of being close to others; ideally, the friends I choose are those with a mature outlook to life. And part of maturity entails knowing when to apologize for a transgression. Since no one can be perfect, they might as well perfect their perception of apologizing and forgiving.

And lastly, the gravity of my message is more suited to cases of BETRAYAL. Betrayal by friends or family are one occasion when the usually soothing \'Biblical quotes\' will not be enough. Betrayal shakes your world about as much as being Bereaved.

\"If your best friend steals your wife...\", for example, it\'s going to take quite a bit of soul-searching, prayer and dialogue to fix that hurt. Same thing with \"Betrayal from a Friend/Parent\". THESE ARE SPECIAL OCCASIONS...and that\'s more of what I\'m addressing here!

Becky said...

Hi Richard,just stumbled upon your website through a friend's and I got reading...and wow!
Well let me say(though it's a little late in the yr.since you posted it)that it just put into words what we wonder at or are bothered by without quite stopping to think about or even come to terms with, say the human nature and it's weaknesses and tendencies.This more often than not results in bitterness like you so aptly put it, which has never done anyone any good rather it hurts the carrier more, bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person to die.And for that I suggest forgiving even when an apology is not forthcoming,for your own good at least.
And about trust and friendship,well,trust comes in a package marked " fragile, handle with care" since it could be broken in moment though it took years to build.And friendship is a risk like love and success and so many other wonderful things in life.So should we keep from all these for fear of being hurt or fear of failure,NO.Risk we must because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.Only the person who risks is free.

Thank you for taking your time to do just that,it was really good reading.