The Good and the Bad

Yellowstone

From “Changes that Heal”, Part 4 – Dr Henry Cloud

I read Dr Cloud’s book, and just had to outline some of the major points (so I wouldn’t forget) – you have to read the book yourself.

Part 4 of the book is titled “Sorting out Good and Bad”. How we treat the good and the bad in our lives has significant impact. As the author says, “Our natural tendency is to try and resolve the problem of good and evil by keeping the good and the bad separate”.

In reality, everything in the world is both good and bad. We are both good and bad. No one who has walked on this earth is all good (except Jesus). And no one, however “bad”, is all bad.

So, given that we have a natural tendency to separate good from bad, and due to the fact that no one currently living on earth is all good or all bad, each of us has a dilemma to deal with when faced with both the good and the bad in any person we meet. How we deal with it usually falls into one of four categories – three of which usually don’t work long term.

Denial of the Bad

When we refuse to see the bad in other people, that’s looking at life through rose colored glasses. The bad is allowed to continue unchecked. Or worse, we assume that the other person has no bad, and we stomach the pain from the pain that they cause. When we refuse to see the bad in ourselves, we ignore problems and sin and continue to hurt others. Finally, we could have a corrupt version of our ideal self, and strive for “bad” things, assuming they are “good” – a good example of this is when we ignore negative feelings or emotions and assume we shouldn’t have them.

Denial of the Good

We might focus too much on the bad in other people where we ignore the good that is there. Often this appears when we are over-critical. We also might have poor self esteem if we fail to recognize the good inside us – if we focus primarily on our failures and shortcomings. Also, by denying the good in ourselves we might view ourselves and full of sin and un-redeemable, or that it’s possible to live up to any ideal. Finally, there might be “good” in our lives that we have shut out because our ideal self has incorrectly deemed that unacceptable.

Attack and Judge

This is the most common way people deal with the bad – when they see it, they have to condemn and judge. When we see our own faults, maybe we beat ourselves up. After enough of this self inflicted pain, we might slip into either denying that bad or denying all the other good. When we see others fail, we are quick to correct and attack. We see ourselves as “holier than thou” and can’t believe that the other person could do such a thing – we’d never do that. We compare one person to another and the lesser of the two is “bad”.

Acceptance

Denial of the Bad is “all Grace and little Truth”. Denial of the Good is “no Grace and little Truth”. Attack and Judge is “Truth without Grace”. Acceptance is both Truth and Grace. Truth to see what is really bad and really good, and Grace to unconditionally love self and others despite the bad. Put another way, “hate the sin, love the sinner”. Only by lovingly accepting ourselves and others, and truthfully identifying the bad can we ever hope to improve on the imperfections in a position of peace and security in the relationship.

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