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A good person, deep down

3 Sep

I read this article the other day. Apparently one of the top questions people ask Google is: “Am I a good person?”

I’ve been pondering why people ask this question and what they actually mean ever since watching a particular episode of Bojack Horseman. If you’re not familiar, Bojack Horseman is a deeply unhappy washed-up celebrity horse who is always doing terrible things to sabotage his own life and his friends’. His friend Diane writes an unflattering biography of him, at which point he asks this question:


How haunting is that?

Later on, Diane tells him, “I’m not sure I believe in deep down. I kind of think all you are is just the things that you do.”

It does seem odd to me that people can do all kinds of terrible things and still maintain “but I’m a good person.” Or that they use that phrase to defend a friend or family member who’s committed some horrible crime. “But she’s a good person…”

I used to think that everyone believes this; that they are essentially a good person. Yes, they do bad or stupid things sometimes, but deep down they are one of the good people, not one of the bad people. But maybe everybody doesn’t believe this, if it’s one of Google’s most popular searches. Maybe a lot of people have the same nagging worry as Bojack. They see themselves doing mean and bad things and secretly wonder, “am I still a good person?”

But what do you even mean? What is this “deep down” place that seems to bear no relation to the things you actually say and think and do? Isn’t hoping there’s some secret other part of you that’s a better, nicer, good person a bit delusional?

I wonder if people asking this question are asking the wrong question. I don’t think that “am I a good person” is exactly what they mean. I think it’s possible that what they actually mean is, “am I still lovable?”

Could somebody really, truly know me and still…?

You can’t really be a Christian and believe you’re a good person. “No-one is good except God alone,” according to Jesus. I don’t believe there’s a line to be drawn between good guys and bad guys, and I certainly don’t believe I’m a good person deep down, regardless of all the crappy things I do. I just believe that I’m loved, regardless of all the crappy things I do. By someone who truly knows every single thing about me. No pretense. And that is a peaceful place to live.

I wish Google could offer this answer to all the worriers typing their existential dread into an incognito search bar.

“Am I a good person?”

“Of course not.”

“Can anybody love me?”

Yes.

Luke 15:11-24  | Romans 5:7-8

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King Solomon’s posting guidelines

20 Feb

I think the book of Proverbs has a few things to say to us humans who inhabit faceless online identities on social media, forums or “below the line”. Thanks to King Solomon for these ancient posting (and reading) guidelines. And feel free to slap me with them when necessary. Which one strikes a chord for you?

FB proverbs opinions

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
    but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult.

An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
    and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

Whoever derides their neighbour has no sense,
    but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

The simple believe anything,
    but the prudent give thought to their steps.

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
    but envy rots the bones.

Where there is strife, there is pride,
    but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom.

Let there be light.

17 Dec

Some years more than others, Christmas feels like lighting a candle in a very dark room.

Humankind doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job at being humankind right now, does it? But that’s how our story goes.

When it gets dark, we start to lose our way. We can’t see where we’re going any more and we can’t see each other. We trip up. We get scared. We get lost.

I love taking part in a carol service, lit by tiny flames (or glowsticks) in the darkness. It reminds me of the reason we can hope and not despair: introduce the smallest light into a completely dark room, and it can never be completely dark again. It’s impossible for more darkness to extinguish that light. With a candle, you can find your way.

And that’s kind of the message of Christmas. It’s dark down here. We need a light. So here are some lines from John’s gospel. Merry Christmas.

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.