Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Demystifying the "Bad Things Happening to Good People" Conundrum

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Before answering this question, it’s worth asking:

Who’s to say that they who ask this question have an accurate sense for what is “bad” and who is “good”?

As we answer the question that is the topic of this blog post, you’ll come to see that the common definitions of “bad” and “good” upon which the question is based are rather shortsighted.

The better question might be:

Why do seemingly bad things happen to seemingly good people?

5 Potential Answers

Potential answers are as follows:
  1. God is an angry and vengeful God.
  2. God wants us to prove that we believe in his saving mercy.
  3. Our hardship and suffering are the cross we must carry in life.
  4. We’re burning karma from other lifetimes.
  5. What we experience is a reflection of our thoughts.
Let’s break each of these down to see if any them actually make sense.

1.) God Is an Angry and Vengeful God

If God is love, as 1 John 4:8 proposes, why would He deliberately and perpetually inflict pain and suffering upon us?

While God allows plenty of space for “tough love,” causing outright hardship and disaster like a grudge-holding, traumatized, and malevolent overlord is not at all aligned with tough love or true love.

Where God appears in scriptural passages, for example, to be slaughtering people (or very much supporting the slaughterers) caution is highly advised.

For one thing, scriptural texts carry a great deal of metaphysical meaning. This is to say, taken at surface value (as religions and lay people usually do), the worst crimes can potentially be pinned on God. But such given passages may not be referencing physical circumstances at all; indeed, they may be referring, say, to a spiritual seeker’s experience of overcoming inner, earthly obstacles.

Secondly, ancient scriptures may have been inspired by God, but that doesn’t mean they were actually written by Him. Scriptures have been written by inspired humans—inspired humans who “got” a message but who also still had some degree of their own beliefs and fears, their own perspectives on life, their own limited awareness of history, and so on.

Thirdly, over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, many scriptures have been cherry-picked, transliterated and translated, interpreted and reinterpreted, and sometimes even outright manipulated. Just because it's printed neat-as-you-please and supported by any given religious "authority" as the "Word of God" doesn't make it true.

That being said, to say that “bad things happen to good people” because God is angry and vengeful seems false. Anger and vengeance are issues that have been plaguing man internally for time untold. It therefore only makes sense that man would characterize God in the same way either in attempt to exonerate himself or because man cannot help but reveal his deepest truths in his earthly expressions.

2.) God Wants Us to Prove that We Believe In His Saving Mercy.

This one screams of the victim mentality.

This belief is often (always?) held by people who believe that we have one life to live before spending eternity in heaven or hell. They believe they are effectively hell-bound but will increasingly be seen as worthy of heaven as their level of hardship and suffering increases.

The problem here is that this belief is like saying: “Yeah, God, just keep stacking on the shit, because I believe you’re going to save me in the end.”

Pardon me if I’m raining on anyone’s parade, but what if this isn’t the way God works?

What if, say, we purposefully and voluntarily came here to physically experience God’s creation in all its ups and downs?

What if those with this mentality will die only for God to say:
“Life is a lesson, my dear one. Why would you have the same troubles over and over were it not so?

When you went to the school of intellectual knowledge you always wanted to learn the old so you could discover the new. Yet in the school of life experience you continually allowed yourself to be chained to the old. Thus, nothing new could ever come in.

And why would I send you to earth to learn if you couldn’t take your wisdom with you into a new lifetime? What need have you for wisdom and knowledge in heaven where all is already known? Or in hell where it would all be worthless?”
If “bad things happen to good people” because “God wants us to prove that we believe in his saving mercy,” then it is only for the reason that the believers themselves are creating this troublesome experience and perception with their own thoughts.

3.) Our Hardship and Suffering Are the Cross We Must Carry In Life.

In a way there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just a metaphor.

We all experience difficulties throughout our lives, and each issue to arise contains within it a life lesson.

Problem is, people often use this “Cross-Carrying Member” identity as a means of avoiding their responsibility to themselves of learning their life lessons.

These folks are willing to do what is “comfortable,” but they’re not willing to do the uncomfortable work that would put them face to face with their deeper traumas and fears; they’re not willing to let go of and/or alter their beliefs and behaviors—to truly die to themselves—and become reborn.

So they continue caving in to the siren song of victimhood. They justify that the gradually but ever-worsening hardship that befalls them is “just the cross I’m meant to carry.”

In this case, “bad things happen to good people” because “good” people avoid the inner work required to stop the “bad” things from happening.

4.) We Have To Burn Off Karma

“You reap what you sow.” Karma is the justice system of the universe.

Suppose I made a living stealing and selling cars. If I get caught or turn myself in, I have to pay the price.

But what if I went to the grave without either? Or what if I paid only part of the price, and then died? (And what is man’s price compared to God’s?)

Would I go to hell? And if so, would I go to the same hell and burn for eternity with evil dictators who commit countless atrocities? Would I go to a lesser level of hell for a much shorter term and burn for only 10 hours per day rather than 24? Or maybe instead of being on fire, I’d have to stand in a freezer and use cold water to wash melted, burned cheese off of baking pans? (Oh, the horror!)

And what if I’d been born into an abusive, drug-dealing family of car thieves? How does that equate to a man who’d been born into a love-centered, spiritual community? Should I be so severely punished for not being able to overcome a totally lousy upbringing and environment?

Why not reincarnate into another body in another time and place? Maybe with similar conditions that I can try again, or maybe I’d live modestly but my possessions or identity would be stolen.

From a karmic perspective, “bad things happen to good people” because seemingly “good” people have to balance out the “bad” things they’ve done in their current or other lifetimes.

5.) What We Experience Is a Reflection of Our Inner World.

There are so many angles to look at this from, but consider just this one with regard to beliefs:

Have you ever been around someone who’s sneezy and itchy and forever saying, “I’m allergic to everything”? Or maybe you have a friend who’s always complaining about prices and saying things like, “I’ll never pay off this debt; it’s one bill after another”?

People speak and act based on whatever is going on within them. They express their inner fears and beliefs through their external words, actions, and life circumstances.

If people are willing to accept the truths of life (whatever they may be) and are free of fears such as speaking up and going after what they want, they’re not going to have allergies because allergies are the body’s way of reflecting how people are mentally-emotionally “allergic” to life. If people are free of inner issues surrounding money, they’re not going to be worrying about prices or struggling to pay bills. As the saying goes, “As above, so below.”

“Bad things happen to good people” because “good” people are unwittingly physically manifesting the “bad” results of whatever negativity is hanging around in their inner worlds.

It’s All Relative

As I'm sure you've noticed, I’ve placed quotes around “good” and “bad” with regard to people and things, respectively. This was done in reference to the shortsightedness of definition mentioned in the introduction.

Quite simply, “good” and “bad” are highly subjective. Apply “good” or “bad” to anything at all and you’ll find a bazillion people with some smaller or larger difference of opinions.

Pertaining specifically to the message here, we’ll look at each separately.

We judge the “good-ness” of others by our perception of their level of decency (which itself is subjective and for which some people can be very deceptive in their portrayal of). However, if we accept that what I’ve offered above may be true, we see that there are a lot more factors that come together to determine how “good” anyone is than meets the eye.

This is not to take away from whatever acts or words of kindness anyone exhibits. It’s only to point out that our usage of “good” to judge someone leans toward shortsightedness because it doesn’t take the whole into account.

As for what is deemed “bad,” even these things can be perceived as “good” to the degree that they are circumstances meant to tell us something about ourselves for our higher good.

When I was younger I was very much out of integrity with my true needs and desires. Throughout this time I stubbed my toes and jammed my fingers and the like all the time. I’d always rationalized that “it’s the way life is” and “I’m a clumsy schlep.”

This difficulty minimized greatly after I’d awakened. But then during the first half of my dark night of the soul when things were really bad, I’d again banged my elbows all the time. Through the highs and lows of healing, the lows often came with elbow-banging. Once I’d sufficiently gotten my act together, I stopped banging my elbows.

The difference between my younger years and my older years is that I was able to recognize during the older years that I was the cause. Sure, figuring out what my pain was signaling to me was a different story. But having the awareness, both in this particular scenario and as a theme of “how life works,” has made a huge difference in my ability to deal with and heal my life.

So while the “bad” is usually quite unpleasant, this same “bad” is also a blessing if one knows how to see beyond appearances to “get” the message.

Tempering Ideologies

Before you go, I would like to point out one final thing:

It’s important to see that questions such as, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” are existential questions. They are questions that involve all people of all times in all places.

The reason this is important is because questions like these are often asked by people of a given ideology who seek to receive answers from others, usually “authoritative” others, of their same ideology.

People need to understand that Life is, God is. This is to say, Life and God are not Democrat or Republican; they’re not Catholic or Buddhist or Islamic; they’re not American or Malaysian or Norse; they’re not scientists or spiritualists—they carry no ideology.

When existential questions arise, I have no argument with anyone going to someone they see as knowledgeable about their ideological perspectives in search of answers.

However, it’s crucial that people
  1. also seek answers from sources who are outside of their ideological perspective, and then
  2. they sit with the information gathered and see and feel which answers (even if they're cross-sourced and uncomfortable to accept) provide the fullest picture.
No single person or group has all the right answers or the only answers—most especially when they come from those who claim they are.

You know… There’s a funny paradox with life: All the answers we could ever want or need are already before us, yet “sight” is not given to us unless we work for it.

There’s no real work in ideologizing life because the moment we say, “This is it. Here’s where all the answers lie”—yes, “lie”—is the moment all true seeking ceases and our minds and hearts close down.

If we want the answers, if we want true “sight,” then we must reach.

I hope you’re one who will.

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 12/7/11 to former personal blog Without a Story.

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