We are good.
I once found myself interviewing for a job managing security with a major corporation. The questionaire asked,
"If they knew with 100% certainty that they would never be caught, do you think most people would steal?"
I answered, "Yes."
Pressed about my answer during my interview, I reiterated that I believed that most people were bad and would do immoral things if they knew they wouldn't be caught. I was hired.
I am acquaintances with a prominent leader of a conservative Christian community. He posts spiritual advice on social media. He may mean well (or be suffering from an undiagnosed God-complex), but his premise is off and his advice is heartbreaking.
Starting with the belief that we are, at our core, bad, leads to destructive beliefs and perspectives. It leads to self-loathing, self-destruction, self-absorption and an unrelenting sense of victimhood. It paves the way for judging others. And if you do those things, it only further proves how bad you really are.
Believing that we are hopelessly bad leads us to feel that we are powerless and in constant need of saving. If your best friend were dating someone who made them feel this way, you'd immediately recognize how unhealthy it is. It's emotionally, psychologically and spiritually abusive. It led me directly into a string of abusive relationships with Christian men.
The premise that we are all born bad is false. You are not bad. You might steal if you thought you wouldn't be caught... but you are not bad.
For many years I was told that I was bad. Not just in the normal, "you're a sinner in need of saving" kind of bad. I was told over and over by religious people that I was worthless, troublesome, a bore, a bitch. I was hated by my own family, my spouse and even my pastor. I learned to hate myself. It was the only logical conclusion.
We do not take care of those we despise.
I struggled (and sometimes still do) to recognize that I AM NOT BAD. I am not bad and neither are you.
Incredibly, you an I are collections of brilliant little cells. Each of which contains a tiny universe of electrons, protons and neutrons. Each cell knows its job and together, they dutifully built our hearts and nurture them every day. Regardless of origin, the vehicle through which we get to experience life is profoundly awesome. We are good.
Beginning with the premise that we are inherently bad prevents us from stepping into the immeasurable power we all hold. When we wait for someone else to save us, for someone else to fix us, for someone else to give us value, we forget how powerful we are all on our own. We have the power to choose compassion and gentleness. We have the strength all on our own to forgive. We do. We have the freedom to say, "I'm not ready to heal. I need more time to grieve." We also have the freedom to say, "I will not waste another moment in tears. I'm ready to heal completely and move forward." We do not need supernatural intervention to be powerful. We are already extraordinary.
I watched a woman commit a felony. It took time. She, an employee, committed herself to the task with small thefts throughout each shift. She didn't believe that she could be caught. I walked her out in handcuffs to a police cruiser. She turned to me and said, "Thank you for being so nice." She wasn't bad and neither are we.
I sat today with this simple, cheerful mala and meditated on the profound truth that I am good. The sand was warm and soft and wave after wave collapsed against the shore. The air, salty and sweet, clung to my hair. I felt safe and connected to the earth. As I allowed myself to marinate in the mantra: "I am good," I felt a weight lift. Shame, guilt, self-loathing, internalized blame... It drifted away with the marine layer hugging the coast.
I am good. I am good. I am good.