That’s Good, That’s Bad

As a kid I loved the book That’s Good, That’s Bad by Joan M. Lexau. It’s a simple story about a boy in a jungle running from a tiger and encountering misadventures with a rhino and a crocodile. The writing and the pictures are very straightforward and are punctuated with judgments as to whether the action on the current page is good or bad.

My friend was recently going through a breakup. Her boyfriend, generally a nice guy, just wasn’t being that nice to her. He would cancel plans with her, showing up late or not at all. He was kind of irresponsible with money. Seemed emotionally incapable of having a discussion without an explosion. His general lack of interest in showing her that he valued her and the relationship left her feeling, well unvalued.

AND anyone who knew him would describe him as a genuinely nice guy. When they did hang out, he was fun and kind and helpful and they laughed and generally had a great time. She spent many a night pleading with the relationship gods to just make him be worse so she could see him for the bad that he was and end things.

As children, we see things as good or bad. People are good guys or bad guys. Objects are good or they are bad. As we age we have the unfortunate task of accepting that fully formed human beings are complicated and possess not only both good and bad qualities but also lots of in between ones.

Was Jack London a racist? Did Martin Luther King Jr. cheat on his wife? Was Mark Twain obsessed with fame? Did Amazon take a stance against the travel ban? Did Nordstrom stop carrying the Ivanka line as a statement or because of lack of sales?

The world and the people in it are complex. Unfortunately, the childhood gift of keeping everything in their one box doesn’t hold up. Good people do bad things and vice versa and more often than not human beings are not good or bad, they are fully flawed, beautiful, stumbling along, developing humans.

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