Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

This is a question that has been asked for eons. What are “good” people? We consider “good” people to be those who have led exemplary lives in what they stood for, believed in, and sent out into the ether.

Why do these people experience bad things? Who says what has happened to them is bad? What if these bad experiences are just learning events, where they experience, choose how to respond, and then grow from gleaning some lesson from this “bad” thing?

Perspective is the key here. Each person has a different perspective to the same situation.

Do you recall this story?

Good thing, bad thing, who knows?

Good thing, bad thing, who knows? is a wonderful story illustrating the timeless truth that we are affected not by the things that happen but by our viewpoint on the things that happen. Our perspective limits and directs our experiences, what we remember and how we carry ourselves forward.

The story goes that a poor farmer borrows money from his neighbors and buys a stallion to start raising horses.

His neighbors praise his courage and status of owning such a great stallion. The farmer replies, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

One night the stallion breaks free and escapes. His neighbors express their regret and the farmer replies, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

The stallion returns, leading a band of horses. The neighbors now congratulate the farmer on his good fortune. The farmer again replies, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

While training the horses, the farmer’s son is hurt; his leg is broken. The leg doesn’t heal well, and the son can’t walk without limping. The neighbors sympathize and the farmer replies, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

Their king deciding to wage a war with another kingdom drafts the kingdom’s able-bodied sons into his army. However, due to the son’s disability, the king does not take the farmer’s son.

The neighbors, grieving that their sons may never return, tells the farmer how lucky he is to still have his son. The farmer responds, “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?” And so it goes into perpetuity.

This story is often used to illustrate that it is our viewpoint that dictates how we perceive things to be. I take it a step further and ask why leave it to chance? When we choose to see events as bad, we reinforce the negativity sneaking into our lives.

When we choose to leave it up in the air, we are indecisive. Choosing to see events as good things, we are decisive and bold as we direct our lives with positive energy.

Now, I hear you say, “Are you crazy?!” “Bad things are NOT good things!”

I must respond by saying, “Your perspective shades them as bad or good. It is totally your choice.”

My experiences have clearly and repeatedly proven that in choosing to see each event as a valued gift with opportunity for me to grow, then each event – even those with pain – is indeed a good thing!

We live our choices. We may not understand but accept that where we are; the journey we are experiencing is right for us at this moment. It is a gift for us to learn to take responsibility so we may change it. We can make a new choice! When it no longer is our right choice, we will choose anew.

That is what I have learned to do. When I find myself in unforeseeable situations, I see myself growing as God shapes me through these seemingly unbearable circumstances.

I was fortunate because I eventually realized that when I am in one of these “Take me now, please” situations, I have two choices. I can see myself as a victim, focusing on the searing pain and bewilderment or I can see this moment as a gift that holds value and opportunity for me. I ask myself, “What does God want me to learn?” and then I focus on my Ask Process. You can read about this process in my next post.

I recommend you imagine your challenges from this perspective yourself. I believe you will find it an empowering experience, just as I did.

When I reframed my unbearable situations to see them as gifts, I found the truth in Ramana Maharshi’s quote: “Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”