We don’t want to look too closely at bad stuff.  We might see something we don’t want to see. Certainly we don’t want to talk about bad stuff. Someone might say something that makes us think, hey! I resemble that remark. Why ruin a perfectly good delusion? Now, of course I am not suggesting that anyone who reads this blog is a bad person. On the contrary, my human readers are awesome. So awesome, in fact, I keep writing just for the chance to experience your awesomeness.

Every day I read and write. A majority of this is for school. All of it is good, but some of it is bad stuff. What the heck does that mean? Well, it means learning is good, even when it is about bad stuff. The reason I think it is important to learn about bad stuff is so we can tell the difference between bad stuff and good stuff. You may be asking who am I to say what is bad and what is good? I’d like to propose that what is bad and what is good is not as important as the difference between the two. How can we tell the difference? By learning as much as we can about as much as we can? By paying attention to what has already been learned and reported by thoughtful people? By getting picture in picture so we can watch CNN and Fox News simultaneously?

I am not the devil’s advocate.

When we look at human behaviors, we can see which behaviors lead to positive outcomes. Reading is a behavior that leads to a positive outcome. Well, that is unless we read something that makes us sad. When we become sad, we might withdraw from our friends and family. We might stop showing up for work. We might sit for hours staring at the walls, eating only Doritos. Don’t get me wrong, I think Doritos are good, but sitting alone day after day, eating bags of them is bad. How can it be that ingesting something good can lead to something bad?

That is an example of too much of a good thing.

What if we read something that makes us angry? Is getting angry bad or is it good? My favorite answer is, it depends. It depends? On what does it depend? The argument goes… Anger is bad. Everyone knows it. Anger leads to violence, and we know for sure that violence is bad. There is nothing worse. Yet, humans often turn to violence as a way of getting what we want, and isn’t getting what we want good?

Once again, it depends.

So, I think it is the difference between what is bad and what is good that is more important. What is the difference? The difference between what is bad and what is good is our response, and it is our response that makes all the difference.

You may be thinking I am just messing with you. I’m not. I promise. I will try to prove it.

Much of what I read makes me sad and angry. Not the same kind of angry as texters behind the wheel of their mobile phones, but the kind of angry that prompts me to investigate what I can do, if anything, to change a situation. Obviously I have no control over bad stuff going on in the world. I do have the ability to exercise control over my response to bad stuff. Which as I said, I think is more important than what is bad and what is good. But before any of us can decide how to respond to bad stuff, we must look at the bad stuff and we must talk about it.  Where do we find bad stuff? Cable news? Google? Social media? Do we know bad stuff when we see it? Do we recognize it because it makes us sad or angry or even afraid? What do we do when we are sad or angry or afraid? Withdraw? Lash out? What if we took our collective knowledge from the research data over the last bazillion years about bad stuff, bad stuff that anyone with a heartbeat could recognize, you know, bad stuff like poverty, fear, and ignorance, and what if we decided to respond in a way that made a difference?

***Philip Zimbardo’s presentation contains images which may make viewers sad or angry.

Art Credit: M.C. Escher

16 thoughts on “About Bad Stuff

  1. artsifrtsy says:

    I sometimes hide my head in the sand when it comes to the bad stuff. There is so much of it in life I try to scan the news without taking too much of it to heart. I find it overwhelming if I take too much stock. Right here and now, in this moment my life is just great. I have all I need and good friends and family. Perhaps this is escapism, perhaps it’s survival in our crazy world.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey, survival is the name of the game. I am all for it. That’s one reason I don’t watch the evening news. I don’t know how I missed your comment. I would have responded sooner.

  2. Helen Ross says:

    Hi Honie. I am a little guilty of not wanting to know all the bad stuff as it makes me very sad, angry, bewildered, etc. But you are right – we need to investigate what we can do. And I agree with Mark Petruska – Anger leads to action, as long as it ultimately leads to good, and is directed in the right way.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Helen, I think positive action is the best response to the very real emotion of anger. I’ve felt it plenty, and channeling it into action does often lead to good.

  3. Seems, yet again we are on the same wave length. Yet for now at least I think I will withdraw from some of my activities as some of them lead to far too much toxic discussion. I like the TED presentation, watched it already but it is good.

    Of course, sometimes ‘angry’ leads to bad things. Just look what is happening today in the nation.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Well, I agree, toxic discussion is bad, very bad. And I believe sometimes it is better to withdraw and regroup. Anger is an old flame around here. I know it well. It’s trickery and fakery. Have to keep it reigned in so it doesn’t get out of hand.
      Peace to you, Val. Peace to you.

  4. acflory says:

    I don’t enjoy bad stuff any more than the next person, but over the years I have learned that the bad stuff is what leads to learning, to change, to improvement [even if it doesn’t feel like any of those things at the time]. Another thing I’ve learned is that the bad stuff is necessary as contrast. Simply put, experiencing the bad makes the good feel better. Does this work for everyone? I don’t know. I’m a glass half full person so it works for me, that’s all I really know.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      I like that about you. When I don’t quite feel like my cup runneth over, glass half full types make me feel better. That is what makes me want to try harder. I love to laugh and make other people laugh. Not in an open mic night at Bob’s House O Suds stand up sort of way, but in a way that shows we all go through the same stuff, let’s find some common ground by laughing at ourselves and see if we can’t make the world a better place right where we stand.

      1. acflory says:

        That sounds pretty glass half full to me. 😀

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Lately I’ve been reading (or listening to) too much bad stuff that wears me down. So then I think I need to take a break from it. But then I think, that’s not right. If we ignore the bad stuff, how can we change it? And so the cycle continues.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      It does wear on a person after a while. The passion it must take for an activist not get bogged down by bad stuff. Makes me wonder how they do it. It is fascinating to examine the lives of those who expose suffering and champion justice. How they have no idea what impact they might have on the future.

  6. Well said! Time to stop collecting data, wringing hands, and taking a step forward? Better calm cold determination used than emotional anger.

  7. Lyle Krahn says:

    You nailed it by keying on our response to the bad stuff. Of course that isn’t easy.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      You’re right about that. Our response depends on so many factors. But it is that simple. The difference between bad and good is our response. Simple, but not easy.

  8. Anger leads to action, and action to change. Enough people were angry over the mistreatment of blacks in the ’60s that it spawned the civil rights movement and brought about equality. The same can be said today of homosexuals or killing ourselves and innocent others around us with tobacco smoke or driving gas-guzzling cars (okay, we’re not angry enough about that one – maybe when gas hits $5.00/gallon). The point? Anger does have its place, as long as it ultimately leads to good.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      …the kind of angry that prompts us to investigate what we can do, if anything, to change a situation? Exactly, Mr. Petruska.

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