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Bad Things and Good People

I have heard the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” thrown around a bit lately. I was even asked it the other day in an interview I gave which is gonna get slapped on to the extras of a short film DVD. It’s not a question that I felt very comfortable with, and I wasn’t entirely sure why until just recently. It dawned on me why this particular question, which occurs in a somewhat cliche manner in certain circles (I’m looking at you Christians), gets used and misused all the time.

Why do bad things happen to good people?…

There are two parts to this question that needs to be considered. The first is this:

The question presupposes some measure of Good and Bad. That is, it assumes that we have an ability to judge what we think is good, and what we think is bad. Most of us will say that yes, we indeed have this abililty, we can and do make calls on the good and bad in life all the time.

The problem however, is that this ability is essentially entirely relative for each of us. What one person deems to be a good thing is not necessarily what someone else deems to be a good thing. One person might think they are good to make a one off donation to charity, another person thinks that regular donations are the very least they can do. One person might think that is only okay to kill in times of war, another may think that it is never acceptable.

There are literally hundreds of examples of relative good/bad situations that can be given, and on the whole, we live in a society where we are able to hold various positions on this good/bad continuum without too much repercussion. When sufficient people think that an action or stance is bad enough, a democratic society then institutes laws to criminalise those actions (despite a small minority opinion that might disagree). For example, Marijuana is illegal, yet many who smoke it see nothing wrong with it.

Given that we seem to have a relative measure of good and bad, this question then becomes a relative question. That is, one person’s bad thing could easily be another persons not so bad thing, and one person’s impression of what makes a good person might not be considered good by someone else.

The second consideration of this question is that it is an entirely loaded question. Bad things happen to good people, we all know it, and arguably, I’m proof of it (if I was to consider myself good).

But here’s the clincher…

Good things happen to good people too…

AND good and bad things happen to bad people too!!…

Good and Bad things happen to Good and Bad people!

…. We just don’t like it when it isn’t good things to good people or bad things to bad people…

We have some preconceived notion that good people should only have good things happen to them, and bad people only bad things. I guess in the back of our minds there is some sort of sense of justice that drives this. When we look in the world we can see both the good and the bad, and they happen, sometimes indiscriminately, and sometimes, because it was our own fault.

The beauty of having free will is that we get to choose, we get to make our own decisions, and we get to live with the consequences of those decisions. We love it when we get good consequences, but boy, do we moan like its some great injustice when the consequences are bad.

Love it or hate it, the good comes with the bad.

So the problem with why bad things happen to good people is actually with the question in the first place, rather than the answer. The question does not allow an answer that anyone would really be happy with, and presupposes factually incorrect conditions.

…. There are many things like that in life, where it’s the question that is wrong, not the answer. My previous post explored that a little.

Spending more time on framing our questions in life will go a long way to finding the right answers. God isn’t responsible for bad things happening to good people, our questions are responsible for making God seem like that is what He does. I think we should give God more credit that what our faulty logic does.


Thanks for listening.

Categories: Blog, Faith Tags: , , ,
  1. Tarryn
    December 9, 2009 at 4:06 am

    I know it sounds funny, but I’ve actually never thought about both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things happening to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people. We seem to forget the good when the bad comes along.

    We wouldn’t get to appreciate all of the wonderful things if we didn’t have the bad times.

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