The Good, the Bad and The I Am

*Disclaimer: this is a PG-13 post, so please be aware.  Also, this is the beginning of a conversation for me and not my life-long dissertation on the nature of good and evil, so please be respectful and kind if you have any comments to share.  I realize I may be opening a can of worms by sharing my unrefined thoughts, but I just could not keep them in any longer.  I am open to hearing other thoughts on the matter, but not if those thoughts involve conceited, demeaning or insulting insinuations.

Recently, I read this in a post by Leo Babauta entitled “The Elements of Living Lightly” at zenhabits.net:

“think of nothing that happens as either good or bad. Stop judging, and stop expecting.

It’s a tiny change — all you have to do is say, ‘That wasn’t good or bad, it just happened, it just is.’ It’s tiny, but it takes practice, and amazingly, it can knock you on your ass.”

He goes on to say,

“You will no longer expect good things to happen (or bad things), but will just take things as they come, and be content with whatever comes.”

When I first read this, I rejected the notion for several reasons.  The first being that the title of our blog is DIYtheGoodLife, which means that I have to defend to the death the use of the label “Good.”  Okay, not really, but I was not prepared to let go of it without some sort of mental wrestling.  What of those situations in which someone displays undeniably bad behavior?  Of course, good and bad exist.  It seemed rather naive to me to throw them out altogether.  My mind quickly jumped to one of the worst scenarios I can fathom: a woman being raped.  Typically, the first step in the healing process is for her to establish in her mind that this was wrong, that she did not deserve it or ask for it, and that he should not have done what he did.  This, to me, is the definition of labeling something “bad.”   I also recognized that these statements are derived from a Buddhist tradition.  In some ways, I see how Buddhist teachings such as these have been used to keep the status-quo, allowing those in power to stay in power and those without to feel obligated to support the system.  From my Western, democratic, individualistic mind, I feel frustration over this phenomenon, another reason I did not want to support the idea that one aught to be content with whatever hand they are dealt and not expect anything different.

Despite these protests, I found myself applying the principal in my daily interactions.  To my surprise, I found it helping.  Our laptop died because it could not hack the humidity…it’s not good or bad, it just is…Mike comes along while I am cooking and turns down the burner on one of my pans…it’s not good or bad, it just is…the kids are screaming and crying and fighting with each other…it’s not good or bad, it just is…the outdoor kitchen is inundated by red ants and I get to do the ant dance while frying rice…it’s not good or bad, it just is…you get the picture.  The removal of the good or bad label really did help me to move on and and just deal with the reality unfolding before me.

This lead me to revisit my initial misgivings.  Tackling the biggest critique first, I started thinking about the rape scenario.  I remembered that sometimes these “bad” interactions result in pregnancy, and then in a baby.  Actually, among the most vulnerable of women, the migrant, the refugee, the poor, living in transient situations, with questionable citizenship, and in fear of losing their only chance of employment, this happens more than we who are privileged with a dwelling, a citizenship, and employment may realize.  How does the woman then label that encounter?  It was a terrible experience, yet it was also the event that brought them their son or daughter, whom they now love despite their beginning.  In this situation, the removal of the good or bad label may actually be freeing, and leave room for the victim to move on and enjoy the life before her.  Now, I am not advocating that we start counseling rape victims that their ordeal was “neither good or bad, it just was.”  Maybe we just are not very good judges of what is good or bad.  Maybe Good and Bad exist, but we are not very good at recognizing them as such.

For me, this begs the question, who then is qualified to use these labels?  The response that I hear whispering in the midst of all this mental wrestling is, I Am.  There is an I Am, who is Good and who promises goodness to His people.  What I have spent many, many, many years learning is that the goodness is often not what I expected, often not what I have wanted.  And yet, it has been good, so very good.  I am not saying that the I Am has sent the bad stuff or caused the bad stuff.  That’s a completely different discussion.  But my fear, when we came to Thailand, was that when faced with so many stories of suffering, pain, and violence, I would once again begin shaking my fist at God.  However, this discussion has reminded me that when the stuff that I labeled as “bad” happened to me, it was the I Am who brought the Good back, who brought abundance more than I could ask or imagine.  That is the message that I have to share with those we meet who have suffered so much.  It is also the message that those who have suffered so much have to teach me.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Keirstin Ritchie says:

    I appreciate your honesty in this post & definitely think you’ve taken the time to consider all sides.
    It was a thought-provoking, great read for a Monday morning. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. carrien says:

    This I think is such a useful tool for you. I have a silly example of learning to stop calling things bad or good and it has to do with sweating. I grew up in a very cool climate. Sweating happened when you ran, or wore too many layers in the winter when coming inside. Sweating was bad. Sweating while outdoors in the very cold temperatures could kill you in a survival situation because wet = freezing to death faster. In summer we would sweat but even then, very temperate, you could go for a long walk and barely feel heated most summer days. So I equated sweating with bad, extreme discomfort, etc. I really, really hated to sweat. Then I moved somewhere really warm, and was anticipating moving somewhere even warmer and i had to force myself to accept sweating. Sweating is ok, it’s not bad or good. It’s just your body cooling down. It’s ok to be sweaty. really.
    Again, I learned to do that with hunger, it’s ok to be hungry. You will survive. It’s just a sensation telling you you need food. if you don’t eat for a few hours you’ll still be fine.
    I had learned that also years ago regarding emotions. They aren’t bad, or good, they are just information. I am feelings like this. Why? Is it something happening in my body? Am I hungry or tired? Or is it attached to something deeper, something that needs healing?
    For me this way of thinking of things, though I hadn’t heard that phrase until now, has been very useful, very helpful, and also helps me every day when talking to people, just as you expect that it will be for you.
    I like this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Malia Martinez says:

    Wow. Super honest questions. I love it. I agree that there are some things in fact that you could look at as good…or bad…like ants in the kitchen….and then there are some things that are bad…like rape. And then I also agree that the Almighty God is GOOD…that I know for sure and if we ask Him to…he can take the evil and turn it around for His GOOD purpose somehow… and that is why hope is real. (If I’m putting words in your mouth or kind of missing the point…correct me!) Love you and your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rossmoni says:

    This post reminds me of the conversation about “black” and “white” not referring to color or race. We often feel things are very black and white- very clear cute…just is. But then there are experiences and situations that are “grey” areas…that do not seem to have clear definition or reasoning behind it. Often we have to take the “grey” areas case by case to understand or to move forward. Just like the “bad” and the “good”…life cannot always be define or should be experienced with labels. It’s a good reminder that life happens …God is in control…and take it for what it is…enjoy the experiences that you can in the moment…and the ones that you can’t enjoy do not define you or the rest of your life…

    Like

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