I know it’s not quite what you imagined. But can you do some good with it anyway?
I am a person with a lot of good inside of me. And, um, there is some bad inside of me.
Sometimes I do these big wonderful things to help people. And sometimes I choose things that I know could harm me or the world.
I have this deep passion for kindness, gentleness, being compassionate, and not being an asshole. And then sometimes I hear myself saying something heartless about someone and I think “wow, I am being an asshole.”
So I have both. Good in me. Bad in me.
“Good” and “bad” are tricky concepts. We each have different words for them, and some of the words come with a lot of baggage. Maybe your words are “good” and “evil.” Maybe your words are “right” and “wrong.” Maybe your words are “beautiful” and “ugly.” But somewhere–somewhere deep down, no matter our big picture, we have a sense of “yes, that is how life is meant to be,” and “no, that is sick sick sick.”
And we each have some of both in us.
And the bit of bad doesn’t mean we’re worthless!
When your 3-year-old can’t draw to save her life, that is perfect. You love her awful, beautiful picture she made with her little trying hands. She’s 3. And you love her.
And when I catch myself thinking or saying or doing something that isn’t fair or isn’t my business or is actually pretty shitty–it doesn’t mean I’m worthless. I’m trying at this “life” thing, and I’m getting some of it wrong, and sometimes I give up on trying for a minute. But…I’m 28. And I, too, am loved.
But even with all the love and acceptance, it is worthwhile to stop and say: “We each have some good in us and some bad in us.” Yin and yang. Life. Humanness.
Have you noticed that sometimes . . . a lot of times . . . it depends on the context?
With an inspiring group of fitness friends, we’re kind. On the phone with customer service, feeling annoyed and unimportant, we’re rude and aggressive. . . . On vacation, out in the great outdoors with other adventurers, we’re just the nicest and openest. Racing the clock in traffic, we cut people off and give people nasty looks. . . . Volunteering for a couple hours at a food shelf, we’re friendly and interested in our fellow volunteers. At the end of a stressful day at work, we have nothing but moody looks for people who try to connect. . . . On our Instagrams, we’re all inspiring and motivating and positive. Then we get sucked into a political debate and all bets are off. . . . Sometimes it even just depends on which people we’re around. Our group of kind and uplifting buddies? Or our group of sarcastic and negative buddies?
Have you noticed that some of us internalize big-picture assumptions about how “most people are generally well-meaning and kind,” while others of us internalize the idea that “most people are generally mean and selfish?” Maybe we’ve just been spending most of our time living and learning in one type of context.
For example, some people live in worlds where they get to see a lot of mindful, thoughtful, excited good, good, good–inspirational conferences, leading high energy workouts, working with precious children at a daycare . . .
On the other hand, some people live in worlds that seem to frequently center on or bring out the careless, mindless, thoughtless bad–customer service, politics, law enforcement, litigation, working with…precious children at a daycare . . .
It’s not that the world is made up of sunshine and rainbows. And it’s not that the world is full of awful people. It’s that the world is full of PEOPLE. People who show up a little differently depending on the context.
The SAME PERSON will find the GOOD pulled out of her in some contexts, and the BAD pulled out of her in other contexts.
Do you ever catch that in yourself? Like, “I’m usually pretty nice, but apparently not when I’m asking for a refund!” . . . Or like, “I thought I had grown up into a mature adult who gets along with other adults, but then I went to a family reunion!”
Do you ever notice someone doing the Jekyll/Hyde thing to you? Where you’re like, “wait–I thought this person was nice? Where did this come from???”
We all have some of both: Good and bad. Love and hate.
Potential for both.
Are we different per context? In some contexts, wonderful? In some contexts, a little less than wonderful?
All begs one big question:
How can we move more toward WONDERFUL?
How can we bring out the GOOD more often in ourselves? And in others?
Can we consciously tip the scale toward a more consistent, mindful life of LOVE? Even in the tougher contexts?
Can we pick up the entire spectrum and shift it a few smiles and thoughtful words to the KIND side?
Yes, we’ll still have both sides of the spectrum in us. It’s just . . . can we get a little more mindful, so that we can bring a little more GOOD to the “bad” contexts?
If it seems hopeless–if you think Little You can’t tip the world’s Kindness Scale–remember that Love can be profoundly contagious.
It starts with you and me.
A thought occurred to me today as I watched my adorable wife randomly dancing a carefree (and quite unpredictable) little dance. After a minute she laughed and said, “Do you ever think about if other couples do things like this, just be silly or weird around each other? Or if most people are more normal?”
Honestly, yes, I think most couples do random goofy things around each other. Definitely, definitely, definitely–in private, wherever self-consciousness isn’t an issue, yes: EVERYONE does weird and carefree and goofy things.
I think there just aren’t “normal” people.
We think of the world as being full of “adults” who are “normal” and “mature” and do “sensible” things and aren’t “childish” or “silly.” But behind closed doors, I don’t think anyone is “normal.”
A well-spoken doctor suddenly reverts to high school when his buddy shows up. Chest-bumping, high-fiving, saying things like “my man” and “eeeyyyy” and “sick bro!”
A suit-wearing executive jumps and screams watching his favorite sports team in the postseason.
Or there’s someone like me, who can be found sitting alone, smiling and laughing out of sheer happiness as I read the wine-and-cheese book I got for Christmas. Cheese….. :)
And everybody dances. Or sings. Or just makes weird noises. Or uses goofy voices. At least when nobody’s around to watch.
Think of the person with whom you’ve had the most comfortable friendship in your whole life. Your best “buddy.” Maybe it’s your significant other. How weird and silly have you gotten when they’re the only person around? You just let it all hang out, childishness, mischievousness, laughter till your sides hurt, and all the silliness inside you.
Maybe there are some “adults” here and there who are “normal” and “mature” and never free their childlike side–never do any weird little dances. I’m afraid that in my experience with those types, it means they’re trying really hard to earn or prove something.
But I think for the most part, people who have found the freedom to just be themselves (at least when they’re with their safe few best friends) aren’t normal. They chase their significant other around the house, they make outrageously dumb puns, they pull strange stunts just to crack each other up, and they dance silly little carefree dances.
And there’s something happy and safe and relieving and inspiring about that. We’re all just people. Emotional, curious, excitable, goofy, sometimes childish people. Free.
Someone recently suggested I be more like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character from the hilarious movie Central Intelligence. He was picked on for being himself in high school. But when he grew up to be a cool, strong, intimidating bad-ass, he still shows up in a baby blue shirt with a colorful unicorn on it and the words Always Be You. “Unicorns are the most lethal animals on the planet,” he explains. Because he just. Doesn’t. Care.
Thinking today about how silly and false the idea of “normal” is, a couple close friends come to mind who just 100% lean into their happy energy. Sometimes they seem “weird” or “different.” But they’re the most loving, happy, supportive, people to be around. And their complete genuineness–their total lack of facade–makes them inspiring and freeing people to just be with.
I realize I want to be even more like them: Just myself. Just real. Nothing to prove. Nobody’s approval to earn. Carefree and silly. Just free.
How silly do YOU get when nobody else is watching?