This is a question I’ve heard often asked throughout the years and one that has never really been answered comprehensively. It’s evident that in life we cannot stop bad things from happening but we do have the power to choose how we respond. So, in this article, I wish to share some ideas with you in the hopes that it may offer some insights on why do bad things happen to good people in the hopes of making your journey a little lighter.
So, why do bad things happen to good people?
First, we need to define what is bad and what is good. This short video from ‘Dare To Do Motivation’ shows us that it is only our perceptions of what is happening that makes us consider stuff as good or bad. It is only just over two minutes long and well worth viewing for the perspective offered.
Did you watch it? So now you know the difference between good and bad, right?
So, good and bad are relative, depending on our unique perspective, just as ‘up’ only has meaning when there is ‘down,’ and both are relative to what level you are currently on. Sure, ‘left’ exists and because it does, we also have ‘right’….. but even left can be in a different direction- depending on if I am facing forward or backward.
So it seems that not much is absolute, but rather reliant on our judgments of what we think we are experiencing, relative to what we believe we know.
The world of duality that we live in needs this balance so that harmony is maintained. If we didn’t have the in and out, the up and down, the hot and cold, the left and right, the world as we know it couldn’t physically exist, and then we would not have this wonderful playground to experience the game of life.
Having said this, that bad is as equally valid as good, I am in no way, what-so-ever, implying that we need to suffer or experience the bad. However, as life continues to unfold stuff is going to happen, and it is up to us how we respond. And as the farmer in the video knew, it is up to the way we think about what is happening that causes us to suffer, or not, or believe something is either bad or good.
“Tragedies do happen. We can discover the reason, blame others, imagine how different our lives would be had they not occurred. But none of that is important: they did occur, and so be it. From there onward we must put aside the fear that they awoke in us and begin to rebuild.” – Paulo Coelho
I loved Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, more than twenty years ago when I first read it. He writes about a young shepherd boy who embarks on what becomes a journey of self-discovery. The boy (Santiago) is tested many times by seemingly unfortunate events, or ‘bad’ things.
However, he soon learns that the way through is to never dwell on the past and to never ever let the bad things that have happened define him. Santiago could have easily chosen to keep remembering his past misfortunes and feel sorry for himself, (and I know people who do this,) but he learned that this would serve no useful purpose and would only keep him stuck in a never-improving cycle of despair, gloom, and misery.
He instead chose wisely to make the most of the situations and to concentrate his energy (his thoughts and actions) into the present moment to create a better future for himself, as he discovered that it is only in the present moment that we have any power to make choices.
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” – Walter Anderson
I think most of us have some (or know others who are living with) regrets, trauma, and pain, from the past. There is no doubt that some people have experienced horrific events in their lives, things that melt the hearts of normal people when they hear about it.
Some of these people have used these experiences to propel them to greatness. The internet is full of tragedy to success stories, and while the story of what happened is not pretty, the outcome of achievement, success, strength, and power, could never have been attained without the initial bad stuff.
The difference between those that are triumphant, and others who are not, is the desire to overcome. It’s as Walter Anderson said in the quote above, “I can choose to rise above the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”
“We are made of memories and formed by experience. I keep wondering what kind of people we would be, and what kind of world this would be, if when bad things happened we could erase them, or somehow make them sweet.” – Sue Halpern
I love this quote from Sue Halpern. There is true wisdom being expressed here.
It is all our experiences that have contributed to making us who we are right now. And if we were somehow able to erase any of them, we would essentially be a different person.
When we were young, maybe we were curious about what was happening on the stove top. So we pulled a chair over, climbed up, and touched the heated cooking element. We got burned, it hurt like hell…… but we never did it again! We learned from the bad experience. And we were made wiser for having had the experience.
Now imagine if we could erase that experience. How many times would we keep doing the same stupid things because we no longer have the memories of what the consequences were?
“Bad things are actually good things for awakening! But the best thing is to be awakened before the bad things happen!” – Mehmet Murat ildan
Awaken before the bad things happen? OK, good idea! But for most of us, it’s the ‘happening’ or experiencing the bad things that compel us to make positive changes in our lives. Without being exposed to an array of events, dramas, and circumstances, we would have nothing to create friction within us, and it’s the tension or unease we experience because of the contrasting feelings that motivate us to make changes.
Can you imagine living a life where everything was great all the time, and there was nothing that you could disagree with? I would say you would have to be either oblivious to the reality happening around you, or you would already be enlightened.
In some ways, a person who is oblivious to the ‘bad stuff’ has an easier life because they do not get involved in the dramas going on all around them, and they don’t feel the need to judge anything. We could say they are simple-minded because they don’t analyze everything. For them, bad doesn’t exist….. life is just happening and they don’t need to know “who did this,” “what did they say,” “and why is this happening to me?”
The results (no discernment between good and bad) are the same when an Enlightened Being participates in life, however, the process to get there may be very different. For one who is awake, they are totally aware of the interplay of ALL energies that cause ALL events to happen and ALL circumstances to materialize.
However, an Enlightened being most likely wouldn’t intervene to relieve someone of their suffering because they also know that ALL experiences are a necessary part of life. We came here to experience duality and grow from the lessons provided by the good and the bad. And it is only because we have both that we are able to evolve.
Who knows, perhaps the simple person (like the farmer in the video above) who is able to accept ALL OF LIFE and remain at peace is actually an Enlightened Being?
“We have some role in almost everything that happens in our lives. When “bad” things happen, the mistake is not in the role, but in calling them bad. For in calling them bad, we call ourselves bad, since we had a role in their creation. We then have only two choices: blame ourselves, or disown our creative power, neither of which is congruent with our highest purpose.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Neale Donald Walsch authored the book series ‘Conversations with God.’ So, if he was getting his information directly from ‘The Big Man Himself’ you’d think that his information would be pretty good. And, for me, it is great!
We either believe that we are powerless and have no control over anything in our lives…. Which doesn’t make any sense at all, because we all know that even a simple decision like going right instead of left is going to immediately lead to a different outcome. We will see different things, smell different stuff, meet different people, hear different sounds, and therefore our lives, from the moment we made that one small decision, are changed.
How many small decisions do we make every day? And how many BIG decisions do we make, ones that completely change the direction of our lives, and therefore the circumstances we receive?
So the remaining choice that Neale leaves us with is that we blame ourselves for the bad stuff, and believe that we are somehow ‘bad.’ Yes, we all do this at times. We call ourselves stupid, dumb, clumsy, forgetful…..etc. And as he points out, this is a mistake, because it is harming us!
When a child is learning to walk and falls over, we don’t scold him and say ‘what’s the matter with you, get up and walk you little dummy.’ (I hope we don’t!) No, any reasonable parent will offer encouragement and support because we realize that life is an unfolding experience from knowing nothing and being born incapable, and progressing to become masterful humans filled with wisdom and abilities.
It’s the journey we are here to experience, and if we don’t scold our children when they are not yet fully equipped, why do we do it to ourselves when we are also still learning and growing….. the journey never ends…… so be kind to yourselves, because while we are alive there is still more to experience and learn!
“The world seems to want us to be sad and angry because bad things frequently happen. But I say we should feel the opposite. We should be happy and cheerful because good things happen. We should be delighted to see the sunrise and stars glow and rainbows color stormy skies. We should savor every simple breath and eat each meal with gratitude. We should slumber in sweet dreams and relish moments of laughter and love. We should take more notice of the joys and kindnesses that do exist, still dictating the actions of millions of good people all over the world. Life is filled with pleasant moments, not just grief. We should be happy because this is true.” – Richelle E. Goodrich
By changing our perspective, as Rachelle Goodrich suggests, we dramatically change the way we are feeling about our lives….. this is it…… this is how we make our lives better….. simply by choosing to think different thoughts that lead to better feelings within us!
So what are you waiting for? The next thing to happen to complain about, or are you going to decide to look at life from a new and fresh perspective knowing that everything that happens is for our benefit, regardless of if we can understand the benefit or not! And this mirrors what Mr. Blake is referring to in the next quote:
“Be grateful for everything good and bad that comes to you. For all things have contributed to your advancement.” – J. P. Blake
“Never put the key to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.” – Kush and Wisdom ideas
It’s necessary to take responsibility for our own lives, after all, no one else can compel us to think certain thoughts. We have free will and are therefore able to choose how we think about the stuff going on in our lives, and this, of course, leads to the way we are feeling. AND THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAT THE WAY WE ARE FEELING!
“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.” – Simone Weil
Our experience of life is no less beautiful because of all the ‘bad stuff’ that is happening in the world….. unless we choose it to be so. And then again…..
“Maybe bad things happen because it’s the only way we can keep remembering what good is supposed to look like.” – Jodi Picoult
I’d love to know what you think about ‘good and bad.’ Please leave me a comment below so that my readers and I can benefit from your wisdom.
Shared with love and respect for all souls who choose to play the game of life.
12 thoughts on “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
This is probably a little irrelevant in it’s intial context, BUT, you’ve somewhat inspired me to read The Alchemist again.
It occurred to me recently that my lifelong reading habit has taken somwhat of a back seat this year.
You would think with all this additional time spent at home I would have actually been reading a lot more.
Don’t get me wrong, I still study and research online, and I read plenty of articles (especially yours) and visit websites on a daily basis.
But it feels like a long time since I’ve actually just sat down and read a book.
I do happen to have copy of The Alchemist, so I shall be dusting that off today, and getting stuck into it. So, thanks for the reminder.
As for what you’ve spoken of here today, firstly, the story of the Chinese farmer is one that I am familiar with.
Funnily enough, I first heard the story at a young age, and the overall meaning and moral were a little lost on me. I did kind of “get it”, but it wasn’t until I heard the story many times more as I grew up and got older that the realisation hit me.
I also look back on my life and I can see that often I would use something “bad” happening to me as an excuse to indulge in the numerous bad habits I had when I was younger.
In fact, many times this “bad” experience or occurrence wasn’t even that much of a big deal, but it was still the ideal opportunity for me to drink to excess, or take some form of recreational drug.
Those days are long gone now, but the thought process was still ingrained in my mind.
And even with my love of health and fitness, my new “vice” would be to gorge on food when something “bad” happened.
I’m glad to say that I have a far better handle on things nowadays.
I may not be in the same league as the Chinese Farmer, or even these people you speak of who are oblivious to bad things happening (I know exactly what you mean, and I really want to know how someone can be so ” emotionally unattached” to achieve this state of mind), but I am starting to realise that this is all a great learning process for me.
Additionally, I have also learned that nothing, and I literally mean NOTHING is ever as bad as it seems (and I even mean things that some may consider to be the worst things that can happen to you in your life).
As I’ve said to you before, this is a learning process for me, but I am loving the journey I’m currently on.
As always Andrew, an absolute pleasure to read.
Hi Partha 🙂
Good point! “Nothing is ever as bad as it seems!”
I was doing some reading yesterday and came across this research paper from Cornell University that concluded: “97% of our worries are baseless and result from an unfounded pessimistic perception.”
It’s mindblowing to think that most of what we worry about is just a waste of our time and energy! A much better idea is just to go out and have fun 🙂
We are all on the journey, or participating in the learning process that is “Life in a physical body on Earth 101.” I sometimes feel like I haven’t graduated kindergarten yet when I compare myself to someone like the Chinese Farmer. But then when compared to most of the people I deal with each day, I’m well into the journey…..
However, it’s all relative, and comparing ourselves to others is not really useful at all. What is important is who you are today compared to who you were yesterday, last year, and ten years ago. Are you happier now than you have ever been before? and if not, do something NOW that will ignite the feeling of happiness within you, because this is the measure of a good life!
Enjoy, enjoy, and then enjoy some more, my friend.
I wish you all the best 🙂
I read both The Alchemist and Conversations with God (all three books), and I loved them! The Alchemist is a beautiful story with a powerful message. Good and bad is indeed a perception, although I can argue that some things are not just bad but absolutely terrible. As adults we have a choice, we can choose to turn left or right and then follow that path with all its hurdles, obstacles, and also rainbows. As children and adolescents we are pretty much at the mercy of our parents, which I know doesn’t sound great but I come from an abusive home and although I always chose to take a path that would lead me out of there, physically and mentally, it did negatively influence me for several years as an adult. I agree that we are responsible for all our choices in life, but I think that the rule is a little different for people who have known hell instead of a loving home during their childhood, having no firm basis and molded in a way that no child from a loving family would be molded in. The decisions those adults make are often based on the mistakes their parents made with them and the pain and damage those mistakes caused in the children.
I certainly agree that some people who have experienced devastating events and experiences have risen from them like a phoenix from the ashes and used them to become great. I like to count myself among those people. To get there takes a long path, longer than for most people, but when you achieve it, it feels absolutely great. I am using my experiences from my past to help people today.
I agree that as adults we have so many more choices available to us, regarding our thoughts and actions, that we didn’t have when we were children.
I know that so many people have suffered terrible events and circumstances in their lives that affect them adversely for a long time, if not for the rest of their lives. It really really sucks to know that humanity is still so emotionally unevolved as a species that we continue to go to war with other peoples who hold different opinions, compete for and often steal resources from other countries, manipulate, blackmail, and corrupt world leaders for economic gain and power, etc. However, this is only allowed to continue because it is a part of many of our individual psyches.
It is when we stop abusing the children, exploiting the workers, and destroying the planet and all other life forms that we can consider ourselves evolved and it is only then that we will be capable of respecting ourselves and all other beings.
I am not in any way trying to justify the horrors that happen, but just trying to get my head around ‘how and why do people do these things to each other?’
I know I will never get a satisfactory answer to this question, but I do choose to believe that we are evolving as a species, and everything that happens in this magical universe somehow has a role to play in our growth and expansion.
I’m grateful that there are people like you, who have been through tragic upbringings, that are using your strength to make a real and lasting positive difference in the lives of others. Thank you!
With much love and respect,
Thank you, Andrew 🙂 I also think that despite everything we are evolving and that once we stop abusing the ones we are responsible for – like our children and also other species – the world will become a better place.
Tolstoy once said, “as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” I think that applies to everyone and everything. As long as humans abuse their believed power over so-called “weaker” ones at home and in our immediate surroundings, then we shouldn’t be surprised at the horrors that are happening in the world.
Some questions may not have an answer, that is true, and I also believe that whatever happens in our universe helps us grow.
Tolstoy was a wise man. He understood that the manifestations in the world are a reflection of the psyche of man. And indeed, as you say, we shouldn’t be surprised at the horrors we see in the world, because we are still a relatively unevolved species.
However, I have faith that we are on an ever-increasing incline towards becoming a more evolved species. This age of technology and instant communications makes the sharing of information that can benefit us all so much quicker and easier. I know it’s not all good, and that there are some in positions of power that are using technology against the masses for their own selfish benefits, but they cannot prevail over the human spirit. More and more people are demanding change to the current control systems so that all people can live with peace, harmony, abundance, and joy as their experience.
Unfortunately, a great time of change, as we are currently going through, is a great time of stress for so many.
However, if we can focus on the positive outcomes we wish to see in the world, they will become our reality.
I wish you all the best 🙂
I am very glad to have read your article. The story of the farmer is really inspiring and I’m thrilled with the quotes you added.
I have been living for some time on the principle that everything happens to us for the highest good. I may not know today why something happened, but time will tell. And it’s true, time always shows.
Thanks for this great article Why do bad things happen to good people?
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article.
I also like to like with the belief that “everything happens for a reason,” and also “things are always working out for me!”
Maybe we don’t always need to know why or how, because in the knowing, life would loose some of it’s appeal, as there would be nothing left to surprise us 🙂
Enjoy your day no matter what happens 🙂
Hey Andrew, I never finished The Alchemist, but you inspired me to take it up again and see if this time it grabs me. 🙂
I heard the story of the farmer in a slightly different version but with the same message. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? (Or do I have to say Maybe now 🙂 )
At the end of her life my mother got sick. Usually she was very optimistic and laughing a lot, but her vasculair dementia gave have an occasional bad day. On days like that she would cry and ask over and over: Why? I have always been good. Why?
I couldn’t of course reason with her on these days. I knew that once she got out of her mood, she would be her happy self again. But it was always painful to witness her distress.
But her optimistic character is something I hold on to and keeps being an inspiration!
Lovely quotes you have put up here. Thanks.
Haha, I think we can still say, beautiful
I know books like the Alchemist have layers and layers of meanins, and it depends on our state of mind when reading what we will gt out of it. Maybe the timing was just wrong for you, or maybe your time was better spent doing other things. I Think I’m going to have another go at it to see what other hidden gems i can get out of it this time…. now that I am older and wiser (or should that be older and maybe wiser?) LOL.
It’s so hard to see someone we love in pain and know that there is nothing we can do to alieviate it. It’s great to know that you remeber her best as an optimistic and happy person.
Have a great day 🙂
Hi, I came across your site and found I liked the video on the Farmer. You also have some good quotes. My favourite one is “Maybe bad things happen because it’s the only way we can keep remembering what good is supposed to look like.” Jodi Picoult
Thanks for taking the time to read my post.
Yes, the video about the farmer is great. I love how detached he seems to be from the good and bad that so easily controls his neighbor’s emotional states of being.
Have a great day 🙂