Sometimes, the bad guys win.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

I've been reading a lot about the kind of skills that are essential for a well-balanced life. They are not the kind of skills that you would expect to be able to teach children - like phonics or number recognition - and they are not to do with how we treat others, like kindness and respect. They are a different set of qualities - self-control, grit, resilience, curiosity.

In the book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough looks into the gap between kids from rich and poor families, and whether there are things that educators can do to help overcome that gap. It looks at the impact of stress on a child's developing brain through to adulthood.

It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, the book got me thinking about the kind of lessons that my kids will learn naturally as they grow up, almost subconsciously. Lessons like I don't always get to win stuff. And I can't always get what I want. And sometimes I have to wait for things. And no-one can be good at everything. 

As well as more unfortunate ones that I think we start learning in school, like if you look the right way you are more likely to be popular. That sort of sucky life lesson that is unavoidably true.

But one of the most uncomfortable life lessons I will have to watch my kids learn as they grow up is this:

Sometimes the bad guys win.


Do you ever have those days where you read the news and just feel totally despondent about the world? I'm starting to wonder if there's a correlation between happiness and news consumption, actually.

I want to teach my kids that they should strive to do the right thing. Not necessarily the easiest thing or the thing that gives them the most success, but the right thing. That sounds kind of wooly, but I think that's the thing that most people try to do (or at least the people I hang out with). The right thing. I want to teach them that even when doing the right thing is detrimental to you, that it's still better than doing a kind of sneaky, slightly naughty thing and getting instant rewards for it.

But then I have days where I think 'is it worth it though? Really?'

When I was a teenager, I watched as the popular, confident kids piggy-backed off the geeky kids in order to gain more popularity and respect. I watched as the stronger kids gained even more strength and power from sapping the confidence of the weaker ones, through bullying, teasing, and social manipulation.

And then as an adult, you realise how everything in our society hinges on the same principle - the strong getting stronger off the backs of the weak. Rich people get richer, and poor people get poorer. It's exemplified in multi-millionaires who relax on their luxury yachts whilst at the same time laying off thousands of minimum-wage employees, but it translates to lots of different situations. It's more lucrative, most of the time, to be bad than to be good.

Obviously there's rules to this. Society doesn't look kindly upon murderers, for instance. But low-level corruption is generally accepted. Even encouraged by the systems that allow countries to run.

It is an absolutely awful life lesson to learn, because you never stop learning it. The more you engage in politics and society, the more the lesson hits home. Sometimes the bad guys win. Or, to be less black-and-white about it, sometimes it's better to do bad things than good things.


This is one of the many instances where, for all its (excellent) qualities, being a Christian is actually harder than not being one. Because I don't have the freedom to hate people like I want to. Everything in my life hinges upon grace given to me, so I have to extend that grace to other people, even people that really don't deserve it, even people who trample all over others and get what they want all the time.

Even those people.

Sometimes, frankly, I want to give up dishing out grace. I want to say 'do you know what? If you're going to spend a lifetime being a total jerk, then frankly, you deserve what you get.'

But I can't be anything other than forgiving of people, because I do bad things all the time. In fact, just by being alive and consuming things in England, I am probably ripping off hundreds of people around the world who are trapped in slavery or poverty (whilst whinging about how expensive things are). I contribute to inequality - everyone does, whether you are stuck in it, or you are the one sticking other people in it.

But grace is the better option in the long run. Right? Extending grace and forgiveness and understanding is definitely more difficult, but it benefits everyone. In extending grace to someone who doesn't deserve it, I get to learn how to admit defeat. How to let things go instead of having to be proven right all the time.

There are limits to this. Obviously. I think as a society we have a responsibility to keep our leaders in line and to question what they do and to try and stop the vulnerable from being mistreated. But on a personal level?

My kids will learn that bullies get away with it a lot of the time.

They will learn that having money and good looks will give you a huge advantage.

They will learn that life is sometimes drastically, ridiculously, depressingly unfair.

They will learn that sometimes, the bad guys win.

But ... they will learn to cope with that.

They will learn that life is about more than instant success.

They will learn that actual deep-down life satisfaction cannot come from using other people.

They will learn that to do the right thing is better than doing the easier thing.

They will learn to be resilient in the face of injustice.

Frankly, there's not much I can do to teach them about this either way. I'm prepared to sit back and let them learn, make their own decisions and mistakes, and see the outcome ... whilst trying to model doing the right thing instead of the easier thing.

And extending grace, even to the bad guys.

Linking up with:


Pink Pear Bear


  1. It's a hard world that we are bringing our children into and it feels like it is a big job to prepare them for everything and as much as we try I think we have to accept that there are some things they will have to find out for themselves. On another note, I worry daily that it's a scary world they are growing up in. This is a side of parenting I naively didn't give much thought to, but it's very much a reality. #twinklytuesday

    1. I didn't give much thought to it either! You get so caught up with feeding them, educating them, keeping them safe ... societal pressures are a whole other ball game. Thanks for reading x

  2. Wow, it is a difficult world out there and all you can really hope to do is teach them right from wrong and try let them learn. Not easy when the world is set against them. #bigpinklink

    1. No you're right, it feels like an unfair world to bring them into - at the same time they have privileges other children don't, so I want to teach them to be grateful too. Difficult to do! xx

  3. The news is so negative and I believe brings you totally down. Someone will say to me about a 'big thing' that's happening and I have no idea what they're talking about (I try to avoid watching ...).

    It's not just parents that are role models for building resilience - it's something we do in schools too. Unfortunately some parents haven't had those positive role models in their lives (as you know Meg). I wish all parents were like you!

    Making mistakes are the best because we learn from them :) But it's having that grace and love as your foundation that enables us to move on and put that learning into practice.

    Hope you are well Meg?

    1. Thank you, that is very kind :) my kids are lucky to have us, really. It's just part of letting them grow up I suppose. Realising they will get hurt by things and not being able to stop it.

      I am very well thank you :) hope you're well too x

  4. This is a wonderful post. I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between watching the news and feeling low. It can seem so awful sometimes. I think you are doing absolutely the right thing. All you can do is do what you can to teach your children to do right, be courageous and show empathy. Change the things we can. Thanks for sharing with the #bigpinklink

    1. Thank you for your kind words :) yes, it can seem awful sometimes. All we can do is try and raise a generation that want to make a positive difference to the world. Sometimes I wonder what kind of challenges they will face as adults! x


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