How many times have you heard this question? How many times have you asked this question? The inquiry seems, at least to me, to be nonchalantly thrown around like a flapjack, hoping for a certain result.
It came to mind recently. I don’t know why, perhaps because I felt it was asked quite a bit (Hell, maybe I was asking it to myself.), and if you look at evidence as simple as a Google search, you can see that it is.
This is a smattering of results on page 1 after Googling that very question:
“Does not voting make me a bad person?”
“Does watching porn on my Xbox 360 make me a bad person?”
“I dislike my grandmother. Does that make me a bad person?”
“Does playing GTA 5 make me a bad person?”
“I smoke. Does that make me a bad person?”
A slew of people express various insecurities, all followed up by the same query. What do you think of such a question? Why do we ask it? Are we unsure of what constitutes a “good person” or “bad person”?
Am I the only one who finds that mentality odd? Are you saying you’re unaware of what makes an individual “good” or “bad”, so much that you’ve got to rely on the input of a friend, relative, dude on the bus, or strangers on the Internet? Let’s take a hypothetical situation, shall we? I’ll be the trusted friend, and the guy with the problem…well…we’ll just call him ‘Bill’.
Hey, John. What’s up, Man? So, like, I’m really into this girl, right? Things are, like, going super good, but, you know, sometimes, like, I think about other chicks, you know? Like, I wonder, ‘What would it be like to get with her?’ or ,’Maybe she’s into me.’ Does that make me a bad person?
Okay, ‘Bill’, so you’ve taken me through your mental process, and you happen to ogle a lady or two and perhaps speculate about their unwarranted company. At the end of your spiel your didn’t ask me if this way of thinking was right or wrong. You just asked me if this makes you an all around crappy dude.
Well…crap. I don’t know what else you’re up to. For all I know, you might keep slaves in the closet and a meth lab in your basement. However, if your wondering eyes are your only flaw, then I guess you’re…um?
Jesse, we need to cook. Does that make us bad people?
John, my man (gives sweet high five), what’s happenin’? Dude, I was so burnt out on Friday afternoon, and I was supposed to get off at 4:00, right? Well, like, there was some sh*t goin’ down later on, you know what I mean (gives jovial elbow)? So, like, I peaced out at 3:55. What do you think, Man? Does that, like, make me a bad person?
I’m outraged. You come to tell me you bailed five minutes early? Does your boss know about this? You better hope he doesn’t find out, ’cause if he does, you’re on a one-way trip to Shamesville, or, better yet, Fired-sville…
No, dummy, I don’t think that makes you the end-all demon of the neighborhood, unless you killed a guy on your way to the “sh*t goin’ down”. Hell, I don’t know. Maybe stick it out five more minutes next time?
I get drunk alone. Does that make me a bad person?
Sad, possibly. Bad, not really.
Okay, these are facetious examples (I also need to find smarter friends.), but the point I’m making is that this stupid question is tacked on the end all kinds of ridiculous anecdotes. You think a warlord, after a hard day of ethnic cleansing, goes back to his tent in the evening and asks his comrade, “Hey, I slaughtered, like, five hundred innocent women and children today. Does that make me a bad person?”
Something tells me he’s not returning to the homestead with that on his mind (I know; it’s a hunch.), and I think the wheels should be turning in yours, too. Are they?
Okay, let’s – if it’s possible – try to separate the “bad” with the “good”. What makes a bad guy?
-Hates and wishes immense harm on everyone.
-Pushes old ladies in front of cars.
-Picks fights with homeless people.
-Sells drugs to third graders.
-Yells ethnic slurs at strangers on the metro.
Alrighty then. And a good guy?
-Well, um, he doesn’t do those things.
Ah, right. You angel, you. Someone deserves a pat on the back ’cause he’s made it this far without dishing crack cocaine out to nine-year-olds…Yes. Again, ridiculous example. But what’s the point? The point has to do with our inward desire for reassurance and justification, namely, the comfort of others. We get all uptight, and we just need our close friends to console us and tell us we’re okay.
Everybody does this. We live in a world where our self worth is based on outside sources. If we think we suck, we get someone to tell us we don’t suck. We let ourselves down, and look at greater failures for consolation. Let’s take an example from…Dun, dun, DUUUUN!…the Bible:
“The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.’” (Luke 18:11)
Now, there’s something to be proud of. You don’t steal, extract money from the poor, or cheat on your wife, and, yet, you’re kind of a dick. In fact, you and Jesus don’t exactly see eye to eye, do you?
And, gee, I wonder why. What do you think of a guy who boasts superiority over others, who claims such righteousness based on what he isn’t?
Let me just say something. If you live your life according to outside opinions, observations, and comparisons, you are a coward. You turn to everything besides yourself for reassurance, neglecting the most poignant judge who knows you better than everyone else.
How unique are you if you’re not an individual, if you can’t come home at the end of the day, look in the mirror, and respect what you see? The “good persons” of the world neglect to realize that there are millions of others just like them, who live, work, sleep, and don’t do much of anything else. It’s a bland existence in which one doesn’t give his own convictions nearly enough credit.
So do yourself a favor, and look inward. Be you. There is no greater contentment than that which lies beyond the often treacherous hurdle of self-honestly. It can be harder to swallow than the conventional opinions of our peers, but it’s worth the rewards.
But, of course, a little help from your friends is sometimes necessary. We all get that. Just don’t rely too much on it and second guess yourself. Enough “good people” do that already.