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  • Writer's pictureAmy Goodman

The Darkness


What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?

What is a bad man but a good man’s job?

While I don’t typically subscribe to the notion of good and/or bad – value hierarchy yes, good/bad no – this quote from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu is a nice and simple articulation of social duty.

In my last article I made reference to it being your “job” to intervene if you see bullying get out of hand or too destructive in nature, in that it withers and chips away at another’s body, mind or soul rather than aiding in someone becoming stronger.

Bullying can be bad. Very bad. I lost a cousin to suicide due to workplace bullying. That’s a really nice way of saying that he killed himself because the people he worked with did not know when to stop, the so-called “good” people did nothing and he did not feel he could live anymore if this is what the world was really like. He was only 21.

Every day I see hundreds of men in prison who have bullied to the extent of rape, assault, murder, theft, child abuse and other atrocities that leave a black mark and wave of pain amongst individuals, families and communities. Many of them have also had these atrocities done to them, though some of them are just pure evil.*

A large and significant proportion of these men are still good little boys who could do no wrong in their parent’s and family’s eyes.

But something obviously has gone wrong and you’ve blinded yourself to see it – whether from fear of what you will discover about them or yourself, or you think it’s not your business to get involved, or you don’t want to ruin a relationship, or you feel incapable of helping – for all of that I say: it is evidence that you need to grow. Truly think about what’s most important and be a better person.

If it’s possible for me, it’s possible for you.

Usually this statement is used in dialogue to help people realise that they can achieve their wildest dreams. I’m telling you now though, if it’s possible for me to journey into the utmost depths of darkness and depravity – it’s also possible for you.

You think you’re immune to the darkness? Or you would never do such a thing because you’re a “good person”. Nothing good comes from wilful ignorance and given the right circumstances there are a plethora of terrible things you are very capable of.

There but by the grace of God go I.

I’m not religious in the superficial sense of the word, but I do like that refence. It’s a wonderful reminder of how lucky you are and, why you should stop judging and start helping.

Doing nothing is not helping.

Telling someone who has done something bad that they’ve done something bad is not helping. They know they’ve done bad. It immediately creates division between two people – you’re wrong, I’m right. It’s an us and them mentality that gets us nowhere.

But by understanding the bad, the evil, the darkness and meeting the person where they are, in their world, you can begin to understand their deepest motivations – the good. You can see the world from their perspective and rather than beating the good into them, you can help them hold on to their dreams, help them shed their darkness and maybe find a little light.

This does not mean you walk around with your heart on your sleeve trying to save everyone that’s in pain. We’re all experiencing varying degrees of hurt, fear, pain, anger and sadness. And not everyone wants help and like I said earlier, some people are just pure evil.

But this is why I am using the word job. It’s just your job. You do not have to be attached to the work or the outcome. Just do your job. Cherish what you do have. Don’t judge others for what they don’t have. Strive for the light within you. Respect that darkness could befall you at any moment. Do your job, confront your fears and your demons so you know what it’s like to do so. Crawl through your innermost depths and find your light so you can be a beacon for others. It’s just your job. Get working.

*Same goes in women’s prisons, I just don’t work there.

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