I’m Not a Good Person; Neither Are You

Keri Smith of Deprogrammed
4 min readJul 28, 2017

I don’t think there are good or bad people, just people who are capable of both. I have been stating this a lot recently; I guess because until coming to this conclusion I never noticed how often I hear folks labeled as one or the other. In conversation, when someone is disagreeing with me, they will sometimes couch it with, “I know you’re a good person, but...” Hearing such a thing now makes me laugh. I’m not a good person! Neither are you. We’re not bad people either, mind you. To state something like that, something you can’t possibly know — seems rather careless to me now, not well thought-out.

One context in which I hear this “Bad Person” description come up a lot is obviously in politics. Trump is often described as bad, evil, “literally Hitler.” I can’t take such critique seriously anymore. For one thing, it’s an absolute judgement on a person’s soul, on their being — instead of on their individual actions. Unless you are omniscient, I don’t see how you can claim to know such a thing.

I also think it functions on a subconscious level to make one feel like a “good” person when they label others as “bad” or “evil.” It pushes the other further from you; it pushes down the sneaking fear that perhaps you could be capable of something similarly bad. And it reduces everyone to an either/or — to the extremes based on how you perceive their behavior at the time. In psychology, they call this “splitting.”

In personal relationships, when someone has wronged you, casting them as a “bad” person in your narrative makes it less likely you will reach forgiveness and internal peace over your past. In my experience, it is extremely liberating the moment you realize that a monster from your past is not wholly a monster, but a human who chose to engage in evil actions. I believe this is true personally as well; if you believe yourself to be “bad,” you you will choose to prolong your suffering, rather than owning up to your actions, forgiving yourself and moving forward.

Thinking of ourselves and others as either “good” or “bad,” also confers less responsibility on human beings for our actions. A “bad” person can do nothing but bad; a “good” person can do nothing but good — so what is the point of making effort every day to keep your actions in line with your beliefs? The people I’m most wary about are those who have no understanding of their own capacity for evil; people who consider themselves “good” people. It’s easy to stop being consciously engaged in your…