It’s a common question. I’ve asked myself why bad things happen to good people plenty of times. For that matter, it seems like good things happen to bad people too. It’s just been recently that I’ve discovered the answer. I can’t take credit for it unfortunately. As much as I’d like to inflate your perception of my level of wisdom, the answer was handed to me in church the other day. The truth is that there are no good people. There are just people.
The Bible says that all have sinned, but despite your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, if you were to objectively examine your life I think that everyone would realize that you have opened yourself up for whatever you are going through. The truth is that by nature humans are pretty despicable beings. We’re selfish, judgmental, critical of others and no one can examine their life decisions throughout their existence and give themselves an A. We’ve all hurt someone, both intentionally, and unintentionally. We’ve all lied, and do so regularly. We’ve all put our needs before someone else. You can’t use the adage that life isn’t fair, and in the same breath expect Karma to be. Even if you are one of the better creations, who spends their whole life trying to serve other people, you have still had moments of weakness or anger.
Then there are the Christians. Why is it that we believe that just because we are forgiven it means that there are no consequences for the sin? If you jump off of a building, your going to hit the ground at some point. There may be a small window of time just after you’ve taken the leap where all is well. You get the adrenaline rush from falling, you get the cool breeze blowing through you hair and you could take the time to enjoy the great view, but eventually you’re going to bite it. And it’s going to hurt. A lot. In fact, and this may come as a shock, but I think it’s probably worse for us. If you believe that God cares for us, and that He is trying to mold us into His image and make us better people, then you have to believe that He is going to allow bad things to happen to us as consequences out of discipline. It makes sense to me.
I refer to myself as a Nazi regularly. It has nothing to do with bigotry, it’s just that I’m really (really, really) hard on my kids. Sometimes I think it’s to a fault, but then Kenzi will do something extremely irritating, and I reconsider. The point is, I want them to be great kids, I enjoy having people tell me how well behaved they are. I like going to restaurants or grocery stores and not dealing with temper tantrums and bringing attention to myself. So I don’t let them get away with anything. Everything comes with a consequence. It’s gotten to the point that my kids don’t even like to hear me call their name. They often jump or flinch when I walk into the room unexpectedly. How much more important is it for an adult?
Brynn, my oldest, has Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheel chair. She has suffered the worst case scenario for Karma or sin. She’s also a near perfect kid. She’s content, satisfied and always quick with a smile. But notice I said near perfect, not perfect. Obviously she can’t paint the walls with a dirty diaper like her sister did. She can’t put hot wheels down the toilet like her brother. But she can (and has) have a bad attitude. She gets impatient, regularly. She can be lazy and not do things that we knows she is capable of or work hard enough in therapy. Even she requires discipline, and I don’t give her a pass either. In fact, we are probably harder on her than the other two, because it’s important for her to be patient with us since she can’t speak and it takes patience and time for her to get across to us what she wants or needs.
I’ve also figured out that God’s discipline isn’t handed down equally. Two people can make the same mistake, or commit the same sin, and the discipline can be grossly different. We’ve all seen the rich and famous person that can do no wrong, and yet they do wrong constantly. The person that has everything they could possibly want and continues to get more, and yet, they are horrible people. Even more frustrating is watching the saints get beaten down and abused by life.
You can never know how far reaching your actions can be. We’ve all seen the story of the weakling kid in grade school who was constantly picked on by the bully that grows up to be a serial killer in an attempt to get revenge on the world. I can remember several incidents in my past that I have said something or done something that could have caused serious damage to someone else. One example was in junior high. I knew, and very much liked, a girl that was really short. She struggled with weight problems too, and of course I knew it. We were having a conversation about someone else one day though I can’t remember who it was about or even what it was about, but some how height was brought up. She was commenting on how short someone was, and without even thinking, I said “Well, you’re not exactly long and lanky yourself!”. I wasn’t referring to her weight. I hadn’t even considered it; the only reason I tacked the word lanky in there was because it was part of the saying. You can imagine the backlash. She was instantly in tears, and her friends immediately berated me for saying it. It was completely innocent on my part, but it obviously crushed her. There have been people that sank into anorexia or bulimia for a lot less than that.
You may not think that particular occasion made me a bad person, but it did. It was bad for her. It could have been, and may have been, a pivotal moment in her life, and could easily have had a bad outcome. It would/could have been my fault. I don’t think it unreasonable that I deserve some consequence for that, whether under the guise of Karma, or discipline. There was a lesson that I needed to learn from that situation whether the pain I caused was accidental or not.
Most of us live our lives, and do the best we can. The truth is that our best simply isn’t good enough. It’s not good enough for that customer service agent whose day I ruined by cussing her out over something that wasn’t even her fault. It’s not good enough for my kids when I get unreasonably impatient with them. It’s not good enough for my wife when I don’t provide for her like I should. Most importantly, it certainly isn’t good enough for a perfect and flawless God.
My best, and your best, just hasn’t been good enough since Adam and Eve ate the apple and introduced sin and the consequences thereof to the world. It doesn’t make life any easier, it just makes life. The only thing we can do is adjust our attitude about it. We’re not kids anymore. We should understand what the word consequence means, and be grateful for the opportunity to better ourselves and thereby better our influence during our time here. Trust me, I know it’s not easy. Even as I write this, I am struggling with the concept and trying to fight off feelings of resentment. It’s not easy to accept consequences as you suffer them, but you have to believe that some day the lessons we learn from it will help us make better decision, or help someone else make better decisions.
At least, that’s the theory I’m going with to help me get through the day. Because I am realizing that if the world were truly just, I would suffer my entire life only to be followed by a very long trip to hell.