Someone said something that hurt me. My immediate reaction was to move them from one category in my mind, the “You May Be Extremely Conservative But You’re Still Really Sweet” category, to the “Wow! You’re Really Judgmental and Kind of a B” category. I wanted to take them from “good” to “bad”. I wanted to label this person as “bad” in my mind. Why? Because in addition to hurting my feelings, their comment let me know that they label me as “bad”. And they may not know this but I’m rubber and they are glue. #science
But I’ve been obsessively thinking about it all morning and I have come to some conclusions. The first of which is, they are not “bad”.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that it is human nature to think of most things in a dualistic, good vs bad, no gray area kind of way. One of our favorite pastimes is gossiping about celebrities and sorting them into good vs bad categories. Bill Cosby used to be good but now he is bad. The discovery of his unforgivable actions erased the good things we liked about him. He is no longer good. He is now bad. During the height of the #MeToo movement, I was shocked and saddened by the news that many of the actors and celebrities I once liked were capable of such ugly and horrifying behavior. They were moved from the “good” category to the “bad” category overnight.
But is it really true that people fit into only one of two categories? Is it true that people can either only be good or only be bad? I really don’t think so.
I try very hard to be objective about myself and to see both the good and the bad in my actions. I know I have done wrong at times and I know I have done right. I do not delude myself into believing I am always right and my actions are always righteous. It may seem that way to others, I don’t know. We don’t really know how others perceive us. So maybe there are people out there who think I am self-righteous and that I do not see my wrongs. I can actually see how conversations I’ve had with others might come off that way. But, dear reader, please be assured, I know I have been wrong many times.
So knowing that I do not fit into either the “good” or “bad” categories, why should I assume that everyone else does? If I am neither all good or all bad, why would anyone else be?
We are all capable of tremendous acts of kindness or horrendous acts of evil. We can all be inclined to be judgmental of others, especially if they have done something to hurt us. And we can all be overcome with compassion for others as well.
The person who hurt me, who said something nasty about me, I know a few things about them. And what I know is that they can be very kind, compassionate, loving and giving. They have a desire to help others, especially the vulnerable. They have been a good friend, not to me, but to others.
Can they also be judgmental? Apparently. Selfish? I’ve heard a few things. Does that make them bad? Does it erase all the good? I don’t think so.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
I always thought this meant we were all bad. And I have to laugh as I type that. Because that is the old dualistic mindset, putting everything into binary categories again. If it’s not good, it’s bad, right?
Maybe what he really meant is “stopping labeling everything”. Stop sorting people into “good” and “bad”. Can we please get over our need to categorize and label and just focus on God, who actually is good?
Does it still hurt me to know people are still chucking me into the “bad” bin? Of course it does! People I know have warned other people I know to stay away from my husband and me. And I was so distraught earlier, I actually made a list of what they were warning people about.
Stay Away From Nick and Bonnie Because:
- Nose ring
- Listening to non-Christian music and associating with people who smoke cigarettes
- Trouble makers/ do not submit to authority
- Turned teens against their parents (back when we were youth pastors)
- Church hoppers
- Only friends with someone so we could get the gossip
- Support the LGBTQ community
That’s all I could think of. People were actually told not to associate with us because of those things. That list represents what makes my husband and me worthy of the “bad” category. Some of the things on this list are absolutely true. I DO have a nose ring. I DO listen to non-Christian music and associate with people who smoke. I DO support the LGBTQ community. I HAVE been to more than one church. We haven’t always been so good at “submitting to authority”. LOL. And I’m sure I’ve told a lie or two. (Or three or four.) But I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never intentionally tried to turn teens away from their parents or only been friends with someone so I could get the hot goss. I’ve never intentionally been a trouble maker or made a habit of lying. (I really do try to be honest.)
It hurts to think that these are the things that landed me in the “bad” bin and that this is what people are saying about us. But I know I’m no different. I know I have said unkind things about others. I know I have painted others as “all bad” when in truth they are not.
And I guess that’s really the point of this post. No one is “all bad” or “all good”. Everyone has a list like the one above of things others have said about them. Many people are both kind AND judgmental. Many people are both generous AND dishonest. We are all a mix. That doesn’t mean people don’t have to be held accountable for their actions, or that their negative behavior should be excused or overlooked. It doesn’t even mean that we should weigh every person’s actions in a “pros and cons” type list to see if the good outweighs the bad. For me it just means, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Because the people out there who have hurt me and said negative things about me, they’ve done good things too, they’re both good and bad. Just like me.
So that’s it. That’s where all my pondering, obsessive thinking and anxiety led me today. It led me to the conclusion that we’re all a mix of good and bad. Just because someone hurt me doesn’t make them bad. And I need to keep working on leaving behind that dualistic, binary way of thinking that categorizes people, dehumanizing them in the process. Also, it’s ok if some people think I’m bad. I can live with that.
I leave you with this video. Before you click play, I should warn you, it’s non-Christian. *wink*