The language we use matters.
The way we describe a thing shapes its meaning in our mind — whether or not it reflects the true value of that thing.
What am I talking about?
If you’re trying to eat healthier and you do a little research online for healthy meals, you’ll be bombarded by information that tells you these foods are good and those foods are bad.
But the truth is, different foods aren’t good or bad.
Labeling something as good or bad is convenient, but it’s really too simple. It doesn’t accurately describe that thing and it causes us to view everything as black or white.
Even worse, it turns everything into a moral issue when it’s really just an issue of logic.
“Good vs Bad” is Too Basic
When babies grow into toddlers and the world becomes their playground to explore and experience, parents struggle to control them.
In order to protect their children, they immediately establish the boundaries of good vs bad.
Eat your food = good.
Put your fingers in the electrical outlet = bad.
And so on.
It makes sense, given their limited vocabulary and the necessity for go-to words that can instantly prevent a child from harming themselves or reward positive choices.
It’s similar to how you would train a dog. Good dog. Bad dog.
Works like a charm, really. The same way that dogs want our approval, babies want the approval of their parents. We’re trained to like being good and dislike being bad.
Now I love dogs as much as the next guy — but are we really as simpleminded as our four-legged companions that consider chasing sticks and sniffing buttholes high-priority activities in an ideal day? I think not.
So why do we naturally resort to this good vs bad mindset?
Because we’ve been trained to do so. And because it’s convenient.
I get it, but why does it matter?
I’m glad you asked. One reason that it matters is because it’s just a simplistic way of describing things that doesn’t paint the full picture. We can do better. But I’ll get into that later.
The real reason it matters is because good and bad are emotionally-charged words that turn logical decisions into moral decisions that reflect our character as a person. The more we use them, the more power we give them.
And the more susceptible we become to being manipulated by them.
This is why marketers LOVE to sell you on their product by creating a good vs bad argument.
If you look at most fitness gurus online, they’ll tell you that you need to buy their program to learn which foods are secretly bad for you and which foods are actually good for you.
You want that six pack don’t you? Well, you have to be a good boy to get it..
The media does the same thing. If they want to promote a public figure, they’ll give reason after reason for why they are a good person. On the other hand, a public figure can be destroyed instantly by being depicted as a bad person.
This person is bad. If you support them, you are bad also!
Where else is the good vs bad ideology used to control people?
Well, there are those little things — organized religions. Open any religious text and you’ll see a guide to everything that is good and everything that is bad clearly laid out for you.
Unlike other groups that will try to be more subtle about it, religion flat-out tells you that you are a bad person for doing the things they consider bad.
I’m not trying to say that religion, marketers, or the media are inherently bad. Obviously, that would contradict the message here. I’m simply pointing out one shared quality — they often promote this idea that things are either good or bad and nothing in between. And they draw a connection between whether or not you are a good person, based on your association with these things.
That’s how the dumbest issues that get debated are taken out of hand so easily. Think of how some people prefer a PC over a Mac. They say that PCs are good and Macs are bad. Which leads to Mac users being bad people. We see this over and over.
The good vs bad ideology creates a moral issue where 99% of the time it should be a logical issue.
Ever noticed that the most annoying people in the world are always the ones that use a moral argument instead of a logical one to prove their point?
Just an observation.
Different Foods Aren’t Good or Bad
Different foods aren’t good or bad. Some are more nutritious than others. Some have more calories than others. Some taste better than others.
When you eat different combinations of these qualities you can change your body composition, impact your health, and create an enjoyable (or not so enjoyable) experience for your taste buds.
Barring any medical conditions, it’s silly to classify foods as good or bad.
You’re setting yourself up to feel proud of yourself for eating broccoli and guilty for eating a donut. Does eating healthy food make you a good person? Of course not. So why should eating unhealthy foods make you feel like a bad person?
Fast food is low quality food. It’s not bad. One fast food meal won’t kill you. Eating fast food every day isn’t bad. It’s stupid.
With all the information we have available to us about nutrition, eating low quality food consistently isn’t bad. It’s not a moral choice. It’s an intelligence choice. You’re choosing temporary feels over long-term health.
Stop labeling foods with moral value and look at the actual label that contains the nutritional value!
That’s the secret to a healthy, balanced diet.
People Aren’t Good or Bad
Most people that know me describe me as a good person. But there are others who have said I’m a bad person.
So which is it? I can’t possibly be both, can I? That would just be too complicated.
The truth is no one is good or bad. We are all varying degrees of what we consider a good person and bad person.
But we’re conditioned to want people to be either good or bad. That’s why the masses go in uproar when someone who was once considered good gets caught doing something bad.
It’s silly to expect any person to be forever good or bad. We simply don’t have the stamina.
When Lebron went to Miami, he tried to play up his new bad-guy persona, but eventually he just couldn’t do it anymore. The same thing happens when people try to build their perfect good-guy persona. They can’t handle the pressure and eventually go crazy.
Once you detach yourself from a person being good or bad, you learn to appreciate them for what they really are — human.
Just remember, the hero of one tribe is the villain to another.
Your Current Situation in Life Isn’t Good or Bad
Growing up my dad would always say this phrase that you’ve likely heard before:
“It is what it is” – Dad
For years, I hated that phrase.
I saw it as an excuse for not changing a situation or preventing it from happening.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that we often find ourselves in situations that are difficult to categorize or that we have no control over.
As a kid, I thought being poor was a bad thing. (I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.) But that background shaped who I am, which has led to a lot of great experiences.
If you’re living, you’re continuing to experience life. Everything that’s happening around you is just the combination of circumstances that makeup your experience.
Everything is a reflection of ourselves. And if we aren’t good or bad, how can life be one or the other?
What makes our situation in life good or bad is the emotion we attach to that experience. You can view a negative or unpleasant experience as a chance for learning and growth or you can see it as an opportunity for a pity party.
Instead of worrying about how good or bad your situation is, let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can.
Either way, time keeps ticking and the world keeps spinning.
The world isn’t black or white. Everything has different shades of grey.
Good and bad don’t exist like we’ve been told to believe they do. Our perception of good and bad exist in our mind, but everything in this world exists as it is, regardless of how we feel about it.
Which is why we all reach points in life where it feels good to be bad and where doing the right thing feels wrong.
The next time you find yourself quick to label something as good or bad and stash it away in its tidy cabinet, take a second to think deeper. Observe its qualities for what they are, not what you want them to be.
You’ll be surprised at how the simplest things in life can be so dynamic and how the problems that you believe to be the most complicated are actually very simple.
Until next time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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