Dearest EXPLORE Reader,
I once saw a simple little sign in a guy’s office that said, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I snorted a chuckle and moved on with my day.
Strangely, I have thought about that little sign time and again over the years. Through a particular set of circumstances, I’ve found myself in new situations where I have come to see how people actually use the same concept above, but sometimes, for nefarious reasons. And it just bums me out.
If I were to ask 100 of you out there “Do you think that you’re a GOOD person?”, 99 of you would say “Well, sure.” Most of you would be correct. I mean, it’s not like you guys are out there robbing banks or kicking puppies. Nope, I’d be safe to say that 99 out of 100 of you are actually pretty good people. There’s that one guy that IS robbing banks and kicking puppies, and he sucks, so we won’t talk about him.
I would also hazard a guess that I could randomly grab one of you, put you on trial to find out if you actually are a GOOD person, and hold court. If I were the prosecutor, I would round up your family and friends that would surely testify that while you might have had too much wine at Thanksgiving one year, for the most part, you are a pretty good person. I would present records that show your charitable giving and volunteering, show a photo of you coaching little league, and even a note from your boss that says “Sometimes he’s an idiot with his reports, but from what I know about him, he’s a model employee.”
Because my MOTIVATION is to prove your “good worth”, I could find the evidence.
Now, if my MOTIVATION was to prove that you were, in fact, NOT a good person but actually were a terrible human being, do you think that I could do it? I mean, we’ve got a lot of people saying that you’re a good person, and we have photos of you smiling with happy kids around you, but what if I wanted to prove a negative? Do you think that I could do it?
You’re darned right I could.
That photo on Facebook that you posted of you and your buddies drinking beer at the coast is certainly evidence to your heavy, irresponsible drinking. Why isn’t your wife in that photo? Hmmm. Sweet Jesus – did I just hear that you took your kids to RANDOM and had wine? AND THEN YOU DROVE YOUR KIDS HOME? That one co-worker that you didn’t get along with just told me about how you were argumentative, and he has no proof, but he’s almost certain that you fudged a few numbers on your expense reports. Wow. Your wife also told me about the one time that you got super angry in an argument with her and slammed the door so hard that you damaged it. Anger issues? Hmmm…
Since I have now presented both sides of this argument to the jury, how would they vote? Would you be found to be a “good person” or would you be found to be a complete jerk?
I know that this is an imaginary situation, but ya know, it’s really not.
I have a friend that I have known for a really, really long time. Well, I HAD a friend, I should say. For years and years we hung out frequently, ate lunch together all the time, had beers while the kids played in the front yard, and we shared our lives with one another and leaned on each other for support in a variety of ways. We were the very definition of FRIEND to one another.
Something occurred and we had a disagreement, which ultimately turned into a large disagreement. One of those kinds of disagreements that just festers and grows and suddenly you realize that you haven’t talked to your friend in months. Then those months become years. Then you hear from a mutual friend that your dear old buddy has really been talking poorly of you around town. So in your anger you start saying to yourself:
“Screw that guy. He’s a coward because…”
“What a loser. He always was a cheat.”
“Whatever. He wouldn’t know honesty if it bit him in the ass.”
“Man, that pisses me off. If he was here I’d punch him square in the jaw.”
Yes, I said every one of those things about my dear friend that I had hung out with for years and years and years. In one minute he was my dearest friend that I would have defended to anyone, and in the next I was tearing apart his character and accusing him of all sorts of things. At one point, I would have said he was salt of the earth and my best friend, and then my entire narrative changed and my old friend was borderline criminal.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one to do this either. I think that if we all get real honest, we could probably identify a person from our past that had gone from saint to sinner in our eyes. Sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye.
Friends and neighbors, that is just WRONG.
We all have bumps and bruises and imperfections in our character that make us less than perfect, obviously. There was one guy that was perfect a few thousand years ago, but they nailed him to a cross. As for the rest of us, we’re imperfect and will never be anything but. When I think back to that silly little sign in that guy’s office, the question its asking is: “Could I convict you of BEING GOOD? Would there be enough evidence?” The answer is yes. At the same time, could I convict you of being BAD? Would there be evidence? The answer is yes.
So perhaps the real question is: WHICH WOULD I PREFER? Do I want you to be GOOD…or do I want you to be BAD?
As I sit on this concrete picnic table by the river, watching the stupid ducks waddle this way and that, and while I smile at the passing people with their dogs, or pushing strollers, or laughing with their partner…I WANT to think that I wish everyone was good. A world full of GOOD people sounds a lot better than a world full of BAD.
Maybe it’s just that easy: I’ll try to make the choice to see the good in you. And you. And you. I’ll also choose to ignore the bad that I see in you. And you. And you.
And if I do that, maybe you’ll ignore all the bad in me. There’s a little GOOD in there, too, if you’ll look close enough.
If we all saw the good, maybe we couldn’t find the bad anymore. In order to find either, we have to take the time to look for it, and since we’ve already agreed that 99 out of 100 of us are pretty good people, that tells me that we sure do spend a lot of energy looking for the bad. Oh, what a mess.
Sigh. Maybe I should pick up the phone and call my old friend now.
Welcome to March. Hope springs eternal, as do the flowers of spring. Get out, EXPLORE, laugh, sing, cry, and dream. Find the good, ignore the bad, and call an old friend.
Benjamin D. Schooley