Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Profile photo of Guyus Seralius

The universe is comprised of two main fundamental forces, the positive and the negative. This unfortunately means we will always have to deal with its negative half.

As a pantheist, I do not view God, the Supreme Being that is the universe, to be an entity which is all good and considerate and which always takes care of us. On the contrary. God, or the universe, can at times show very little mercy. It can be both kind as well as cruel, beautiful as well as ugly, a giver as well as a taker. However, when we walk a straight path and always try to do the right thing, it increases the odds that the universe will be good to us in return. The more good a person is the more he or she increases the chances of getting rewarded for it. But there are never any guarantees. We all know there are those who do wrong, yet get rewarded and those who do good, yet get punished. But one can at least increase the odds of getting rewarded. For example, if you take the time and effort to keep your home clean, you will decrease the germs and, therefore, increase the chances of not getting ill. But, if you fail to keep your kitchen clean, nature will by default try to punish you. Your home will likely become infested with roaches. If you lie frequently, others will stop trusting you. If you do not exercise caution, you will eventually trip and fall or encounter some other hazard. These are the type of universal laws that serve as the eternal Cosmic Commandments of the universal being, which include most of the well known Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Our pain and suffering helps us to grow and develop. It’s why we first learned how to build a fire—to escape the pain of the cold! Some might ask, “Well why couldn’t God, the universe, just tell us how to build a fire; or better yet, why didn’t God simply set it up so that we didn’t even need fire?” I believe the first part of that answer is that the universe was never “set up.” The universe is a system that has always existed and always will. It is what it is and has no choice but to be what it is and to do what it does, much the way 5 must be > 3 or how a square must have four sides.  The second part of that answer is we need the negative to appreciate the positive. It provides the needed contrast in our lives. In order to truly know pleasure we must first truly know pain. We need storms in order to appreciate the sunny days. Having needs helps us to appreciate our lives and our accomplishments. If everything was done for us, automatically from the get-go, we would be spoiled with no sense of right and wrong, we would hold little value towards life and the universe. The incorporation of pain and sadness into our lives allows us to truly live in a more meaningful way. The more we know the pain of losing a loved one, the more we will value life. If we were not faced with the prospect of pain and death, we would not take life all that seriously. Nature needed these mechanisms to perpetuate itself, so that we would be encourage to protect ourselves, to survive long enough to reproduce. The sensation of pain is what encourages us to quickly remove our hand that was accidentally or intentionally placed onto a hot grill.  Pain is what causes boys to really protect their privates. Doing so helps to serve the overall purpose of the universe. Unfortunately, life can be quite cruel and simply must be endured, and I am so sorry for that! I will be the first to apologize for the universe for being forced by its own nature to be so cruel to you, to me, to all of us. It is simply the natural way of things and can never be fully prevented or done away with. Fortunately though, life must reward us from time-to-time with indescribable joy.

When others are kind to you or lend you a helping hand, it is equally valid to say the universe is trying to help you, because they are an instrument of the universe. When a friend shows concern for your plight, this is also the universe showing you concern. Unfortunately though, as I mentioned before, there are times when the infinite system can show you very little mercy. When you become ill, for instance, you can blame the universe. When you become well, you can thank it. So we will always have times of pleasure and times of suffering. It is simply part of the universal formula that sustains life.

The universe allows living beings to be uneducated, unwise, and to make serious mistakes quite often, and therefore, to be cruel to others. We call these type of people, bad, even though it’s not their fault that they’re flawed. This means the universe sometimes has to allow those we think of as ‘good’ to be on the receiving end of those mistakes, even though they are relatively innocent and don’t deserve it. For instance, a dumb irresponsible man may be negligent by not properly securing his huge vicious dog to a properly secure leash, allowing the dog to escape and attack a jogger passing by, who is merely trying to improve his health. As ridiculous as it sounds, during ancient times, primitive men would have assumed that the jogger must have recently sinned and that God was simply punishing him.

In the Book of Job in the Christian Bible, you can read a story about a righteous man who is repeatedly punished by Satan. God, as He is described by Christians, permits this because He is trying to prove to Satan that Job is a true believer whose faith cannot be shaken or diminished by any of life’s struggles and that his religious devotion is not dependent on his favorable conditions. So he loses his children, his servants, his cattle, and consequently his wealth during a major storm caused by Satan, and then is stricken by boils and illnesses. All his friends try to explain to him that he must have sinned and that if he would only repent and beg for God’s forgiveness and change his ways, then all would be well again. Even today, in certain parts of the world, do foolish humans think this way—that all suffering is justified punishment from God. In certain third world countries, young girls are the ones who are blamed when they are raped.  Innocent citizens go to prison or, at times, are even put to death if their tongue is burnt while licking a hot spoon—a judicial test their people believe determines whether or not they’re lying.

It’s so sad that the innocent ones in life often have to pay for the negligence of others. Tragically, our history is filled with stories of the innocent ones suffering the negative consequences of the ignorant and selfish wrongdoers, who too often go unpunished in a timely manner. Though life will eventually punish all wrongdoers in full for their misconduct, one way or another. It’s the law of the universe. One can never escape their due punishment. It can only be delayed for a spell. If so, they will eventually experience the sling-shot effect of the consequences of their negative actions. And as for those who are forced by the universe to receive and endure punishments they do not directly deserve, they will sooner or later be fully compensated by the universe. Over the course of many lifetimes, everyone’s rewards and punishments, whether earned or deserved, will all balance out. When added together, you end up with equilibrium.

Nature will only allow someone to suffer only so much and for only so long, even if the release of suffering is through death, where one may pass on to the next life. And again, we will always eventually be compensated for our suffering either in this lifetime or in the next, or the one after that—if only based on the nature of probability like when you flip a coin a thousand times, fifty percent of the time it will land on heads. So according to chance, involving a large sample, you will experience pleasure fifty percent of the time. Where those moments of suffering or pleasure crop up no one will ever know for sure. That’s where it becomes random from our point-of-view.

Nature does this thing I call the zebra effect. In a manner of speaking, it has its black stripes or negative states, and it has its white stripes or positive states. And it osculates back and forth between the two. Nature is like an onion with its alternating layers. It always unfolds in seasons from the cold and depressing to the warm and joyful, over and over, in a cyclic or back and forth fashion. For example, as long as you continue to live, it is written that you will sooner or later become very ill again. I don’t mean to depress or frighten you, but that’s just the way the universe works. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how rich in spirit, bad times will find you time and time again. Fortunately though, so will good times.

It’s important not to try to give life a reason for punishing you. Don’t tempt the universe by dancing on the edge of a cliff or by driving well beyond the speed limit, no matter how fun it may be. If you have a very extroverted lifestyle and you’re the type who loves to go skiing, mountain climbing, sky-diving, then you really increase the chances of having a tragic incident in your life. That’s the gamble. The grasshopper with the longest legs will also have the longest fall to break. It’s what I call the sling-shot effect or the Kennedy syndrome. The Kennedys often live extraordinary, extroverted lives. They fly planes, they sale, they ski, and they become powerful political figures. It’s their extroverted dispositions and lifestyles that serve as their curse and which leads to many of their tragic deaths.

But do not become a major introvert either. It’s not a good idea to become a complete recluse and live the life of a hermit to never leave your home due to the fear of some mishap. Chances are, your life will not be all that fulfilling. Nature has many ways to punish the overly sheltered as well.  A non-active lifestyle can bring forth loneliness, depression, and illness. So don’t allow yourself to become too introverted or too sedentary in your life or it will eventually affect your health. You must get up at times to exercise and get out and become at least somewhat social for the sake of your health.

The universe will find a way to punish you when you try to live in the extremes, because the universe ‘likes’ balance in the same way a flower ‘likes’ and moves towards the sunlight. It needs and prefers this middle ground. You have to try to balance your lifestyle so that you gently bounce up and down between extroversion and introversion, between safety and danger, and between pain and pleasure. So try to live a balanced life.

by Guyus Seralius on July 21, 2006 (Re-edited in May, 2015)

From my ebook, “The Forever All: A Philosophical and Spiritual Guide,” now available at, Amazon, the iBookstore, and Nook.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar