Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Sometimes good men do bad things

It’s something that we’ve all come to accept. We’ve all said, ‘nobody’s perfect’. We’ve all excused bad behaviour in grown adults who should know better. We do it because we know ourselves to be fallible and we need the same leeway from time to time. We need to be forgiven for our transgressions.

We need some kindness in our society. I believe that as much as anyone does. I also believe in taking responsibility.

Two of the things I hear all the time, especially from younger people, and all over the media are, ‘I just want to be loved for who I am’ and ‘I just want my opinion to count’. On the face of it these two sentences seem reasonable enough. But look a little deeper and it’s not hard to see that, actually, they’re not terribly reasonable; they’re excuses.

When I hear these things being said, or, more often, whined, I have answers for them, and, as kindly as I can, I try to say, ‘If you want to be loved for who you are, try to be the best you can be’ and ‘If you want your opinion to count then you’d better be able to defend it’.

Is that really so very harsh? In the end, we’ve all got to live in the real world, and without the chance to be better and without the encouragement to think smarter, how are we ever going to survive?

So, sometimes good men do bad things. If that’s the case, then tell me, how are we supposed to define bad men?

Once upon a time, we could tell that a bad man was bad by his actions. We could tell that he was bad because he lied and cheated, because he was disloyal and cruel. If good men do bad things then are we to expect to endure betrayal from them too?

If good men sometimes do bad things, where do we draw the line? Do we forgive the first stupid mistake? Well, of course we do. If a good man makes the same mistakes over and over again, then is he still a good man? If a good man never learns to tell the truth, when do we stop calling him a good man? If a good man never takes responsibility for his actions, but always makes the excuse that good men sometimes do bad things, is he really a good man?

Author photo by James K Barnett
If a good man doesn’t learn from his mistakes, doesn’t make amends, isn’t remorseful is he truly a good man? If a good man always has some excuse for his behaviour, if he turns the tables and blames everything else including circumstances, if he blames his victims is he a good man? 

The further we can look into the past, the more clearly we can see the future. We can’t always know whether a man is good at the outset, but time should make a difference. Some people do not change. Of course we all make mistakes, but good men grow and good men change, and good men accept responsibility, make amends, show remorse and move on.

When a good man doesn't do those things, his bad actions are not aberrations they are evidence of his character. That is when we have to make up our minds about a man. Sometimes good men do bad things. Some men are just plain bad.


  1. Part of the issue is global and social media.

    We have always had people who performed great good while also having imperfections. However, the great people of history did it in a world in which their public face and their private one could be very separate.

    Now we cannot escape the knowledge that a famous philanthropist is also cold and dismissive to his family, that a star who raised millions for the starving is an aggressive drunk.

    And the bad sells better than the good; so - while judging a person by the whole of their actions is good sense - it's worth remembering that some people have an interest in suggesting aberrations or complexities are general poor character.

    1. Nice point, well made.

      I think I was talking about our personal dealings with individuals in the real world. Speak as you find is always the best way to go, I think. The media is, indeed, a strange place for people to live out their lives, and more and more of us are doing it.

      I know happen to know people who are very different from their media personas and their reputations, both for the good and the bad.

  2. Awe, someone's gettin' beat with the naughty stick, British style!