I’m A Good Person, I Don’t Deserve This.

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Perhaps one of the hardest things for the human mind to comprehend is that bad things happen to good people. In fact, more often than not, bad things happen to good people. I believe this, because I believe most of us are good people and eventually bad things will happen to all of us (to varying degrees).

I listen to people protest, “I’m a good person why is this happening to me?” My usual response is a compassionate shrug followed by, “I don’t know.” Truthfully, I almost did not write this post because all I know about why bad things happen to good people is, “I don’t know.”

Life is not a simple math problem: being a good person does not equal a good life.

I don’t know why people die tragically or why people develop crippling illnesses. I don’t have any idea why sudden infant death syndrome exists. I don’t know why some relationships stop working. I don’t know why love fades over time for one person but not the other. I don’t know why your loved one abuses substances. If you watch the news tonight, you will see that lots of good people were going about their day and something terrible happened to them. I don’t know why.

I also don’t like when people try and explain why bad things happen. If you are a person of faith, Harold Kushner wrote and excellent book titled, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. I hate to spoil the ending but he basically deduces that even as a man of faith, he feels that man has no answer to this question. 

“The purpose in life is not to win. The purpose in life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.”
Harold S. Kushner

Then there is the notion of karma. This idea has been confused. The true meaning of karma is that life will consistently present you with circumstances where you have the option to open and love (or close and hate). The situation usually involves suffering because that is when our hearts are able to soften and open the most. It is technically not, “what goes around comes around.” It feels a bit vengeful when people find comfort in the idea that karma will get someone. I don’t think it is healthy to wish pain on even our worst enemies.

It is healthy and necessary to take a moment after a bad thing happens and have some time to reflect. After that, gather your thoughts and emotions, dust yourself off and try to find your next step. It is of no benefit to spend much time trying to figure out why things happen the way they do. I suggest having a conversation with your support system on how to move forward instead of trying to figure out why it happened or how things should be different.

Sometimes we make bad choices and are faced with consequences. In that event, please do pause to consider how you can make better choices moving forward. But again, all you can do is move forward. If you get stuck focusing on how your bad choice led you to a bad place you will be unable to get out of that bad place.

When something bad happens, it challenges our understanding of ourselves. When something bad happens to you, it does not mean you are a bad person or that you have done something to deserve what happened. It simply means, something bad happened to you. Even if you made a mistake, it does not mean you are a bad person. Good people make bad choices. Good people learn from their bad choices.

There are some bad people in the world that intentionally inflict pain. The media does a fantastic job leading us to believe there are more bad people than there really are. Most of us are not bad people.

I do know that being a good person does not prevent bad things from happening to you or the people you love. I also know that we should be good people anyway. I think the only response that makes any sense is: I don’t know why this happened, but I am sorry and sad that it did.

“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.”

– Pema Chodron, Buddhist Nun



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