Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Good Kind of Bad

I doubled up on my Wrong Words Day post and included it in Facebook. One of the comments from a colleague of mine:

“It’s also just fun to “be bad” without fear of persecution. I’m sure the kids in your class very much appreciate you giving them that opportunity and it sounds like they respond in-kind. Bravo!”

I knew the writer and knew he understood me thoroughly. But then I worried, “What if another reader thought I was giving full-tilt permission to be bad?” And then I wondered whether that’s what happened to our fake President when he was a kid. The teacher told him it’s cool to sing the wrong words to everything and he never needed to learn the right ones. That he could just shout and scream the song instead of learning how to sing beautifully and in-tune.

So just to be clear. There’s a good kind of bad and a bad kind of bad. In the good kind of bad, no one gets seriously hurt and the person who’s enjoying the bad behavior also knows the value of the good. Perhaps “naughty” is a better word than bad, a little mischievous twinkle-in-your-eye kind of action that keeps you from being a boring goody-goody all the time.

The bad kind of bad hurts people and often intentionally to puff yourself up and for your own profit or gain. You get so you excuse it and smirk about it and find all the ways to spin it so that you can sleep at night thinking you’re doing it for some righteous purpose when it fact it’s just because you’re a jerk and you get off on putting others down. Sound like anyone you know? And I’m not talking one person here— I’ve got a long list and I don’t need to check it twice because it’s perfectly obvious who’s naughty and nice.

If these folks were in my music class as kids, they might have had a great time on Wrong Words Day and that’s fine with me. But the other 174 school days, I’d need to work hard to help them discover that there’s a generous, kind soul somewhere inside them and our mutual work is to find where it’s hiding and coax it out and recognize it when it does appear— helping another kid learn a melody, singing the right words with an angelic voice, really owning one’s part as the Evil King in the play and then being nice at the cast party. I’ll never know if I would have or could have made a difference in those people’s life, but this I know—I should have tried if I had had the opportunity.

And so should we all. Wishing you all a touch of harmless naughtiness and a whole lot of helpful nice.

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