Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We Are Terrible, In General

When I was a freshman in high school, my class schedule was structured in such a way that I somehow got to the cafeteria about 5 minutes early every day for lunch. (Freshest chicken patty just for me.) The lunch period before mine would be just ending, and I would walk in to "our" table and put down my stuff to claim my spot. Then I'd walk back out and get in line (chicken patty line.) But on my way out, I had to pass the table of these 5 or 6 lingering juniors. All girls, always giggling. One of them wore her hair in a bun right on top her head. Every single day. Just a frizzy brown ball right on top of her, like a scoop of ice cream.

And they were laughing at me. I knew they were laughing at me. Every time I'd walk by them, I swear they would snicker.

So I told my mom about this, and I got the speech that any of us would give any 14-year-old in a similar situation - you are imagining this! I know you are self-conscious, but no one is snickering at you. You are beautiful, you can accomplish all your dreams, did you make your bed today, etc. etc.

But one of the giggly girls (not the bun one) was the older sister of a friend of mine, so finally I asked this friend - what is your sister's deal? Why the snickering at me? Because I swear they are snickering at me.

My friend asked her sister, and then she came back and said - hey, they aren't really laughing at you. They just think you're ugly.

OH! Just that. Well then.

Recently a lovely blogger/tweeter I follow also had a particularly horrible interaction with a stranger - eventually culminating in a call to the police - that caused her to question why we all suck so much. Why are we so awful to each other? Why are we so selfish? Why are we so mean? Just be a little good, she said.

I echo that. Stop sucking, everybody. Really.

But I can't help but wonder what exactly we're expecting.

You guys, we are not good. We are simply not good. We are not born good. Where did this idea come from, that we are born good? It most certainly does not come from empirical evidence. We are terrible! And even if we look inward - I try to be compassionate; I believe in the value of every human being - but I have chosen myself over someone else probably over 100 times today already and I haven't even had lunch yet. I cut people off on the highway when I'm afraid I might miss my exit and be, oh I don't know, 5 minutes late. I make a smoothie for breakfast because it tastes good, even though I know the noise from the blender is going to wake up my sleeping husband 30 minutes before he has to be awake. I don't respond to text messages. I roll my eyes at Facebook posts. I leave the office printer empty and wait for someone else to refill the paper.

I am awful.

But I believe that God, in us, can be good. I cannot be good on my own. Long ago I was given the instinct toward death; to fight for what I want and only what I want, at whatever expense. And I could succeed in this (and have.) But there is a sweet redemption in asking Jesus to be me. To be us. To shield the cold, black of our hearts from self-expression and to inspire the lean toward good that He can will in us. To remake our hearts to love good instead of their first love - of dirt and hate and self.

Really - what is "good" anyway, without God? Can "good" have a million different definitions? How can we expect a "good" from other people that we don't even know how to define?

I once asked a trusted friend how I could know that God wanted me to love Him - she asked me to consider what my response would be if I were told He didn't. And I saw a pit of despair that I would not survive. She said - that is how you know. You do not desire God. He, in you, desires Himself. And so you desire Him.

So if I can offer him control - of my mind, my legs, my arms, my deeds - I can do good. I can try, oh try try try, to do good. To let Him love other people through me. And maybe one day I can be changed - into the image of Him He wants me to be - and I will be good. So many people have succeded in this! But not on their own.

Listen - living is much more difficult if you are constantly trying to reconcile the expectation of people's "inherent goodness" with this dystopian swam of a world we all find ourselves in. So don't do that to yourself. Do good. Ask for help doing good; understanding what good is.

But stop allowing everyone's badness to surprise you. Because one day it might crush you.


  1. Hi Maria,

    I began following your blog via a suggestion from Kate Andre. This post SPOKE TO ME. Thank you so, so much for writing it—I will be chewing on your thoughts for a while.


  2. I'm so glad, Tricia! Thanks for joining me! :)