Q&A for Teens: Create More Good
The best way to fight meanness and evil.
There are kids in my class who are bullying me and others. I read your articles about bullying – thank you for the advice. I have another question about it, and here it is: It’s getting me so down that people can be so mean, and I don’t know how to handle it.
Lauren Roth's Answer
I hear you. When we see any form of injustice in the world, it makes us good people sad.
And that’s the first part of my answer to you. The fact that witnessing cruelty bothers you IS evidence of good in the world – and that good is coming through you. When our heart hurts when we see pain, that is goodness. That is kindness. That is doing our part to spread peace and light and right in this world.
I went to New York this week and saw a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk. My heart hurt for him. That was my first piece of creating good and light as I witnessed the scene – just feeling for the suffering of a fellow human being. The second piece was that I gave him some money. It wasn’t even the amount that I gave him – it was the human kindness I transmitted through my outstretched hand. There was evil, and I created good and light because of it.
There was evil, and I created good and light because of it.
This week I also heard an interview of parents of a first-grader murdered in the Sandy Hook shooting. My first thought, upon hearing the interview, was: “How can it be that little kids were murdered? How awful.” Then I heard the parents reacting to the horrific with goodness and light. “Ben loved lighthouses,” they said. “And we wonder if God made it that way, because now he is our light, guiding us towards kindness and goodness.” They reacted to the ugliness with wanting to do more good. What can we do in the face of evil? Create more good.
This week I saw a lot of nasty. The next case in point was a client whose father runs a business and is stealing money (lots of money) from his own children’s salaries. My first reaction, upon hearing this, was, “What kind of father steals money from his own kids?” My second realization was that the child, sitting there in front of me in my office, was upset and sad (and wanted to protect his income), but he was not bitter, spiteful, or angry. That’s goodness in the face of evil. That’s filling the world with light when others are trying to fill it with blackness and darkness.
We just moved into a new house. And my job now is to put blue painter’s tape everywhere where there are mistakes or defects. Every time I have to spend a couple of hours looking for the negative, I get really down. When I shared my discomfort with my son, he advised me, “Even though you have to spend time in the negative, marking the defects, each time you mark a problem on the wall or on the window frame, you could just be grateful for all the other parts of the wall or the window frame that don’t have defects.”
I’m on a life’s mission to look for the good. To recognize the good. To be grateful for the good.
This week also, my special needs sister contracted pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. When I arrived at the hospital to make sure they were taking care of her well, she looked really uncomfortable and her breathing was labored. My first reaction was, “Why does a handicapped woman who already has discomfort and pain in her life have to have pneumonia on top of it all? She already can’t speak or walk. Now this? WHY?” And my heart hurt. That was my first piece of good I put into the world in response to her pain.
The second piece of good was a really good one. It was recognizing the good that came out of the pain. Saturday night, by the time the Sabbath was over, it was snowing really heavily and I knew I wouldn’t make it the 2 hours to the hospital by the time visiting hours were over. So I called our cousin who lives near the hospital to see if he could go check in on my sister. He couldn’t make it because his car and driveway and roads near his house were totally snowed in. So he called his brother, but he couldn’t make it because he had had surgery and was still recovering. So his brother called their nieces, who live close enough to the hospital to walk over – no snow tires required. Not only did they go and check on my sister, they also stayed for an hour and sang to her! That’s goodness in the face of pain.
So my answer to you? There is pain and suffering and evil and nasty. Your feeling hurt for the hurt and sadness of the downtrodden is already creating good in the face of evil. And if you look around the world, you’ll see lots of people creating good in the face of evil. Your recognizing that can uplift your spirit at least as much as the nasty people bring it down. And uplifting your spirit creates even more good, in a never-ending cycle of goodness in response to evil, light in response to darkness, healing and soothing in response to pain.
There is another really important point, too, which will help you relax. People freely choose to do good or evil. And it‘s a real shame when they choose bad over good. BUT, over and above it all, God is the final arbiter. Nothing can ever happen to anyone that God doesn’t allow. Even if someone chooses to dole out pain, God decides who needs that pain and who needs to be protected from it. As awful as pain and hurt are, God ultimately decides what we need, to make us stronger, more sensitive, better people.
What can we do in the face of evil? Kill it with kindness and blind it with light.