What exactly is a good person

L0003666 An apothecary praying for a host of illnesses to descend on

Ever stop and think about the line between good and bad? I have been struggling with some stuck points of mine related to unbalanced thoughts regarding bad people, and being bad.

I have a strict moral compass, super strong unrelenting high standards, and a clear sense of right and wrong. This is not what I am questioning here today. What I’m thinking about is how many times can a good person do bad things before that person becomes a bad person? Is it a spectrum and a matter of degrees? Does it depend how bad the bad thing was? So a quality issue? Or how many, a quantity issue? Or a combination?

I’ll give some examples here.

The picture above shows a man praying, which appears to be a good thing, until you get an inner glimpse that he praying to ask for illnesses to befall his neighbors so that he will make more money selling medicines.

People are not always what they seem. All I know is what I aim for within myself, and that I try to be so good, that I actually strive for perfection, although I know this is not possible, but I can’t seem to stop striving. My stuck point, and core belief system tells me that if I do something bad, that I am now a bad person. And I don’t want to be a bad person, every cell in my body wants to be good.

So when someone tells me, for example, that I have hurt their feelings, I am sent into a shame and self loathing cycle that forces me to withdraw, to isolate myself, to remove my disgusting self from all humans rather than continue to subject humanity to my horrible self.

Extreme? Unbalanced? Yes. For sure.

But I didn’t see it that way until my counseling session today. I was explaining to my counselor this particularly stressful dynamic I have with Hubby, that I have mentioned here before. How he has a strong defense mechanism, his own trigger, to anything that he may perceive as criticism and he suddenly yells and lashes out angrily usually with harsh words to me. I always used to say he had a hot or quick temper. I always used to blame myself for saying something wrong. Now I understand it is his own stuck point and automatic reaction for feeling he isn’t good enough. Problem is, his lashing out then triggers my shame response and has me thinking I am a bad person and trying to figure out what I did wrong so  I don’t do it again.

It is only recently that I am seeing that I am not doing anything wrong. He is highly sensitive in this area and his reaction has nothing to do with me personally. OK I get that, but I can’t seem to stop this horrible shame response, which can last hours, sometimes days depending on how bad the interaction was, or how many we had in a row. I push him away, retreat to my safety bubble – to myself safe and OTHERS safe from me. While I’m in my bubble, Hubby feels the distance and feels rejected and like I am punishing him, when I am actually punishing myself. And round and round we go.

So my counselor said the most beautiful thing to me today to get me a little unstuck. I have completing my challenging beliefs worksheets but not getting movement on this cycle. I am trying to be self responsible and work on my reactions rather than waiting for Hubby to change his. I said I keep getting stuck because it feels like he is blaming me for something I didn’t do, so I feel like a bad person, but then it seems unfair because I can’t find the error, I can’t find what I did that was bad.

My counselor said to me, “It may be possible that sometimes you have said or done nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ to trigger his reaction and that no matter what he was going to be triggered. It is also possible that you communicated something nonverbally, in your tone, facial expression, or body language. It is also possible that you said something ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ FOR HIM. However, what you are missing here, is that sometimes, actually often times, good people do bad things. Actually good people often do really shitty things, and still remain good people. Are your children bad people when they behave badly?”

My jaw dropped. I twitched. I cringed. I almost cried. “No they don’t – good people don’t do bad things…and kids are still learning, adults should know bettter” I heard myself say immediately. Um yeah. Stuck point city. In my unbalanced world, good people do good things and bad people do bad things, so whenever I venture even a toe, even accidentally onto I have done a bad thing property, I am a bad person. I crossed the line.

This happens for me for other people too. Red flags go up quickly with alarms bells. You lied to me – you might be a bad person.  You didn’t follow the rules – you might be bad person. You are selfish – you might be a bad person. You talk too much – you might be a bad person.

I have always known I was judgy, that I push people away quickly, that I am intolerant of their mistakes as I am of my own.

I guess I made that line awful strict to protect myself, and it may be time to erase the line and build a spectrum with fuzzy edges. I was hurt, no devastated and crushed by a bad person, so I have been on the lookout ever since in case I encounter someone like him again. But I am beginning to realize, that all humans are seriously flawed and do stupid things that are not necessarily bad things. I will try to accept the next step, that even if they do bad things, it may not outweigh the good.

People (including me!) may lie, break some rules, be selfish, rude, annoying, whatever. Most people are just trying to get through each day just like everyone else. They might do some bad things on occasion as they sort through life’s ups and downs. I need to apply my understanding and patience that I have for children to everyone. Because everyone is still learning how to navigate through life, there is no magical age where we ‘get it’ and everything is suddenly clear.

(photo credit: See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)


2 thoughts on “What exactly is a good person

  1. Well, we are all human. Terry Real describes relationships as a dance of harmony, disharmony, and repair. I think looking at triggers is good, and also how to repair? Hurtful people generally don’t make repairs…they just move on, not out of protection or a valid boundary, but because they are clueless. Self-examination clues you in for sure. For me, I give people a “three strikes, you’re out” sort of ruler. If they do something hurtful once, and I let them know how their behavior was hurtful to our relationship and then they repeat it two more times, I’ve got the dilemma of figuring out if I can live with that since they are not motivated to change. Also for me, bad people are those that actually enjoy causing pain.

  2. My counselor would suggest that I plan out what I would say to my children as advice then he would tell me to use the same compassion with myself. I learned black and white thinking with no room for error. He would watch me have a complete melt down over the slightest mistake, even an unintentional mistake. He helped me see that all of us, myself included, are all works in progress, that is not to say that all people are safe to be around. I found that I was better able to work this out when he helped me to see what is healthy behavior and what is not. He helped me to recognize motivation of myself and others. He taught me that good and bad choices exist for every one. Personally, I keep working at making more and more healthy choices. I choose to surround myself whit people that have a similar goal for healthy relationships. I still get hurt sometimes. But I am not wiped out. I am better at recognizing people that are unhealthy and putting boundaries in place for them but allowing safe people to be closer to me. My counselor called it an intricate dance of living. I’m still working on it.

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