A friend of mine shared a blogpost with me in which the writer explained why good people suffer. Not a personal “in my experience” response, mind you. This was THE answer for EVERYONE.
It pissed me off.
I wrote this response but did not link the original article primarily because I did not want to give it any traction. For anyone who has ever had to deal with presumptuous know-it-alls, this response is for you.
I read with great interest your recent blogpost about why bad things happen to good people. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was that the never-ending search for the answer to a question that has stumped philosophers and religious leaders for generations was finally going to be answered by someone from Jersey.
As a New Jersey native myself, I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. For while your response tries to be cogent and intelligent, it unfortunately reads like a lower level 9th grade student’s extra credit philosophy paper. It isn’t just the clichéd allusions and the undocumented ideas. After all, this is your own opinion masking as authority. No need to quote sources. I get it. What bothers me more is the sanctimonious nature of your piece. The way in which you assume so much with no real understanding of the magnitude of your hollow epiphanies.
I’m going to give you a clue because you clearly don’t have one. You are not in any position to tell anyone why anything happens in their lives. You might think that you have suffered and that somehow gives you the right to extol whatever lessons you found comfort in during your “journey” or your “experience” but you don’t. Because here’s the deal: you don’t know what their suffering is. And I promise you this, if you think you do, you still don’t. No matter where you are on the scale of worst case life experiences, I can point you in the direction of much harder, more painful stories that don’t jive with your shallow, linear explanation of why bad things happen. Go hang out at St. Jude’s for a day. Go call up Chai Lifeline. Go visit a 30 year old woman in hospice. Even better, go there and hand out your article to the parents sitting near their child dying in a hospital bed. Go give it out to kids sitting shiva for their parents. Laminate it for the world as a resource so that your answer can bring comfort to those who have suffered. And when you do, I suggest you wear Kevlar.
You know why? Because there’s a reason why generations of scholars and philosophers have grappled with this concept. There’s a reason why you can’t look at people suffering and in good conscience say that they probably deserved it in some way. There’s a reason we don’t simplify suffering in cutesy metaphors involving children and candy or teenagers and phones. And there’s a reason we don’t understand it. Because while you might think you have a clear vision of God and His ways and you might really believe that you have the answers, those answers apply only to you and your situation. We all learn our own lessons as life gives us challenges. But the problem arises when you believe that since you have suffered through something that you now have the right to tell the world how they must feel – like you are an authority on the matter.
Therein is the problem. No one is ever an authority on someone else’s pain. And no one is a speaker for God. Especially not someone banging out her philosophy on a laptop in Jersey. These questions require more depth. More thought. And in general, more compassion and understanding which your limited experience prevents you from having.
Rule number one of writing is, “Know your audience.” If you’re writing about why bad things happen to good people, you might want to rethink your tact a bit. I know too many good people – really good people – that have had too many bad things – really bad things – happen to them. Those people are reading your words. And they know a truth that you can’t even begin to fathom in your sophomoric philosophy.
I will leave you with this. You don’t know me, and that’s good. I don’t think we would have played together at the shore. But if you are going to put yourself in a public forum, and throw your hat in with Maimonides, Job, and you know, God, I suggest you do your research. Because I am not one person here. I speak for a lot of people. This isn’t a high school Philosophy class. There are no absolutes when it comes to pain. This is life, with all its complexities. With things we don’t get. Things that can’t be solved in a 500 word post.
So stop pretending you can.