Yesterday, I was listening to Dr. Laura Berman on Sirius Radio and she made a comment that resonated with me. She was talking to a dead-beat dad who was feeling guilty about all that he had not done in the life of his, now adult, son. She said to him, and I paraphrase, “Good people feel guilt when they do bad things. Bad people don’t feel guilt when they do bad things.”
These words have brought up two trains of thought. First, that not all people do good things for good reasons. Second, that when harm is done to us, the intent of the person is just as important as their actions.
In the first thought, I have certainly seen many people who do good things, but not all of them do those good things for good reasons. Sometimes, people volunteer or work for organizations that benefit the community, a social group, a religious group, etc., and through their work they do good things. However, they aren’t always doing those good things for the people who benefit from their work. Often, they are people who want to be the center of attention or they want to use their “good work” to benefit themselves in some way. Perhaps they get free trips with a group like the Senior Citizens, perhaps they want to add a title or accomplishment to their resume to achieve personal success, perhaps they want to simply order people around and feel power over others. If they help someone else in the meantime, that is great, but that is not their reason for doing what they are doing.
In the latter thought, I have spoken to people who have hurt other people in their lives and they say, “I don’t regret anything.” They smile and only throw their accomplishments in everyone’s face without any guilt or remorse over the harm that they have caused others. They only want to flaunt the achievements of their wealth, fame, power, or whatever it is they think makes them better than others. People who speak from pulpits: politicians, community organizers, and ministers alike, who speak only to hear themselves speak, may do good things, but that does not make them good people.
Once again, I am seeing how important intent is when evaluating how one has been affected by the injuries they have sustained in life through the actions of others. When my father was dying, he said these words to me: “I am sorry that I made mistakes with you kids. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do.” These words were a gift to me and to himself. He was a good person who had guilt over how he had handled some situations within our family. On the other hand, I have heard friends talk about their parents who hurt them physically and emotionally and it was done without any guilt whatsoever. There is a huge difference in these scenarios. Dr. Laura was talking to one young woman who was looking back at the fact that her father was never there for her and the doctor’s advice was, “Tell yourself, ‘I never had a father; I don’t have a father; I will never have a father, and then get on with your life.'” Harsh, but true. Stop letting that person hurt you over and over again, he’s already done enough damage. On the other hand, when she was talking to the dead-beat dad, she basically said that he should feel guilty and sad, but not depressed. That because he felt guilt, he was a good person after all.
Good people feel guilt, Bad people don’t.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy