Bad things happen to people, whether they are good or bad
Let’s talk about when bad things happen to good people…
Why do we believe that when things don’t go to plan, that this is a sign to give up?
Who is it that we believe we must be good for, and according to who are we good?
What makes a good person, and what makes a bad thing?
I will be exploring all these questions. Read on…
You’re a good person, right? I believe I am a good person, and I do my best to be good. I honor deadlines, I arrive on time, I make sure to settle any debts, I say please and thank you, I don’t lie, or cheat, or steal. I do all the things I’ve been told are the things that make up being a good person, so why do bad things still happen to me?
I get lied to, taken advantage of, lose things and people, I don’t get what I want, I am not heard or taken seriously, I get sick, I feel down and depressed, I lose my mojo as soon as I think I’m on a good wicket, and a myriad of other things that seem to knock me down, pull me back, take the wind out of my sails, cut me down to size, put me back in my box.
What if the bad things that happen, are happening for you, and not to you?
Do you mean that I deserve to have these bad things happen to me?
That I am supposed to experience all these bad things happening to me?
That somehow what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger?
Hmmm… well, yes! Let me explain…
I would like to lay a foundation and context to this conversation first. We must remember that there is no good or bad that is universally applied to every single person in every single situation.
Let’s say you and I are walking down a beach together, perhaps even having this very conversation. The sun is out, it’s a warm day with a breeze, and the tide is low… You turn to me and say, “Gosh, I love being at the beach! The sun on my face, the wind through my hair. I love the sound of the waves, the feeling of the sand beneath my feet, and the smell of the ocean. This is my happy place.” I respond by saying, “Well, I am glad you’re having such a good time, honestly, I feel as though the sun is burning my skin through my shirt, the wind is blowing sand into my eyes, the tide has pulled back and all the seaweed stinks, and my feet feel as though they are being rubbed against sandpaper, I’m ready to go home!”
Same exact experience, two different perspectives.
How about you are walking through the supermarket, and you notice and elderly lady reaching up to get something on the top shelf of the gondola. You immediately rush over to her assistance, saying “don’t worry I’ve got this for you!” while grabbing the item off the shelf to hand to her with a big grin. You feel great about yourself for your good Samaritan behavior. She doesn’t seem to quite agree, giving you a snarl as she mumbles thank you. You see for that lady, she had set a goal for herself that day to walk a few extra steps, stretch more, and lift a little more weight. She has been in physiotherapy for the past few weeks rehabilitating from a hip operation and had tasked herself to walking every isle in the store, reach for groceries on the top shelf, and carry a basket instead of using a trolley, so that she can see the improvements of all her hard work.
Was this then being a good person or not?
Another story is one of a man who robbed a pharmacy as he was desperate and without the money he needed to buy the medication his desperately ill wife would need to be cured. You can research to read up more on this as there is hot debate on whether he should be punished for breaking the law or be given mercy as his actions were to save a life.
These stories all bring up interesting perspectives and hopefully an understanding that right or wrong, good or bad, pain or sorrow, is in fact subjective, and instead everything on this subject is based in beliefs, and perspective. We can only measure for ourselves whether we are getting the results that we want.
Perspective, opens another view on why good things happen to bad people… By who’s measure is this result good or bad?
There is a photo doing the rounds on social media of a little girl on her birthday. Her friends are all crowded around, there are two 2-liter bottles of soda and some bread rolls on a little table. In between the soda and bread-rolls is a home-made chocolate cake with sprinkles. You could tell by the photo that these people don’t have much in a material sense. What is so moving about this photo is that the birthday girl, who is maybe about 6 years old, is crying desperately with gratitude for her cake, the title of the photo being, “Sometimes, what you have is what others dream for.”
Now this little girl doesn’t deserve less, or even more based on her background. She isn’t less, or more deserving because of what she has or doesn’t have. She isn’t less, or more likely of getting what she wants because of her circumstances. These are all simply perspectives that we apply to others in a hierarchy of who is better, who is more deserving, who is more worthy. And honestly, we do this so that we can feel better about ourselves. Who am I to make her joy and gratitude small because I may have access to more than she does. Everything is relative to one’s perspective.
You see her circumstances may lead her to become a humble hard worker, or a bitter, hardened criminal… again, she will believe herself to be justified with either of these outcomes based on her perspective. This is the same as you are believing to be justified in being a good person and therefore should have only good things happen to you.
This may be a tough pill to swallow, but what I am hoping to illustrate is that it is only good, according to you, and honestly anything can be justified.
What it really comes down to is whether you are satisfied with the results or not.
What is so fascinating about perspective is that we create our reality through the lenses of our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and past experiences. What this means is that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. There are neurological filters where our brain seeks out patterns, like the moment you get a new car and suddenly everyone is driving that same car… It isn’t as though those cars were not on the road before, it’s just that your filters simply weren’t tuned in to see them. This happens with everything in our environment. The reason being is that our brain must filter out a lot of the outside stimuli in our lives, so that we are able to process and function. The filter changes depending on what we deem to be important. The moment we shift our focus and priorities, our brain switches to filter in what is prioritised and filter out what is de-prioritised… so if you’re focused on bad things happening, well then, they do… If you’re focused on being late, then you are… If you focus on being lied to then you will be… If you focus on getting sick, then every niggle is the start of something… This isn’t because none of these circumstances weren’t necessarily already happening, but because by you focusing on them, you are more likely to notice it. It’s kind of like with quantum physics where a wave only collapses into a particle to create physical matter when the wave is observed. When you focus on the thing, the thing takes shape and manifests.
There is a story about a farmer and his son. They owned a beloved horse that helped the family own a living, until one day the horse ran away. Their neighbor came to visit upon hearing the news, “Such bad luck that your horse ran away.” They said sympathetically.
The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”
A few days later the horse returned, bringing in tow three wild horses with it back to the farm. The neighbor exclaimed: “Your horse came back bringing with it three more. What good luck!”
The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”
Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to ride one of the wild horses when he was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbor cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!”
The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”
A few weeks later, military officials arrived in the town to recruit all young men for the army. Seeing as the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they chose not to take him. The neighbor shouted, “Your son is spared, what tremendous luck!”
To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”
This story illustrates how sometimes seemingly bad things may happen for us, in the way of setting us up for our next step.
We cannot view our circumstances as defining moments and allow these experiences to tarnish who we are. Our biggest downfall is asking, “Why does this always happen to me?” “Why can’t I just get a break?”, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” because what these questions do is keep us stuck focusing on everything that is wrong in our lives. I think too often we view bad things happening as evidence that we are doing the wrong thing. We expect that when we are on the right path, things will be easy and in flow. We believe that if we are doing the right thing, or the best thing, it should be well-received and go smoothly.
What if sometimes bad things happen to good people to make us better people? What if bad things happen to put us on a better path? What if we simply looked at anything “bad” that happened to us, as something that is to connect a dot to the next step. Not over analysing why it happened, trying to figure out its purpose, but simply trusting that there is purpose and reason, and we might only know why in hindsight.
Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, to begin with the end in mind. This is his second habit, which suggests starting with a clear picture and understanding of your end destination. So, if our end destination is to look back on our lives and reminisce on what good people we were, such law-abiding citizens that were always on time, never raised their voice, and consistently turned the other cheek, then excellent! You are well on your way to achieving that. However, if your purpose in this lifetime is to lead a legacy that impacts people well beyond your years and physical reach, then perhaps being a good person isn’t enough.
You see, if you do a poor job, you get no results, right? Think about this in a work context… the person who underperforms eventually gets fired, therefore doing a poor job means getting no results. So then what kind of results would you get doing a good job? Poor results. You see, it’s your job to do a good job, it is what is expected of you. And doing a good job, gets poor results… you get a salary with 15 days of paid leave a year, and maybe a chance to splash out on the bar tab at the Christmas party.
Ok, so if doing a poor job gets no results, and doing a good job, gets poor results, how do you get good results? By doing an excellent job. Think about it… you do an excellent job and someone slaps you on the back and says, “good job!”, your good job gets announces at the weekly team meeting, you get a raise, and maybe even a promotion. Doing an excellent job, gets you good results.
So how on earth does one exceed this, and get excellent results? Or better yet, how do we surpass all these levels and get everything that we desire? We do that by being outstanding. Standing out from the rest. We exceed expectations. We are true to ourselves, not wound up in obligation. We take risks, and try new things, even if those things don’t go to plan, we chalk them up to lessons. We speak up and we speak out, we push against the status quo. We keep our promises, to others and to ourselves. We maintain integrity, being sure to always speak and act in alignment with our conscience. We devote ourselves to what we want and what makes up happy, and we do this by consistently showing up, doing what needs to be done. No matter what.
We do all of this with the end in mind.
We do this with a perspective that serves us, that gives us the view that propels us.
We do this knowing that everything that is happening, is happening for us.
We do this knowing our personal power is far more than our circumstances.
We do this with a deep burning desire to be great.
We do this because we have a legacy to lead.
We must remember that iron is forged in the fire, diamonds are created under pressure and mountains are built when volcanos erupt.
When bad things happen, because they will, we can hold these experiences. We can have grace, learn the lessons, and be true to ourselves and our feelings, all the while picking ourselves up, and taking another step knowing that there is glory on the other side.
Who’s with me?