How To Be Good In A Bad World

I have recently debated philosophy of law with my best friend. One of the biggest difficulties in interpreting (and thereby) enforcing, our constitution is that while human rights have been both recognised and included in our law, it is insurmountably difficult to define exactly what these rights are. 

Dignity and respect may seem synonymous on the surface, but in truth, hold different meaning to the individual, which is determined by their gender, culture, religion, upbringing and perspective. What this boils down to, not only in law, but in society and our personal experience of self, is that while we like to think that we share the planet with others who agree to certain morals and principles, in reality, we don’t. 

The world is populated with bad people, and this is a truth many of us struggle to stomach. We like to justify bad behaviour, we like to make allowances, we seek to understand their circumstance and pain so we can avoid accepting the truth of who and what they are.

The brutal truth is that in your lifetime, you will come across many people who will deliberately seek harm, uncaring of the pain and turmoil it causes. The repercussions of accepting that reality, is in my opinion, the harder part of the equation.

Because it will require you to get uncomfortable. 

If you are a person of integrity, standing up to ill treatment makes you believe that you risk losing your ‘goodness’ in order to do so. In a nutshell, many good people on the planet believe that you cannot fight fire with fire, or in modern terms, you can’t be an asshole to fight an asshole.  

But where does this philosophy leave you? Agreeing to be a doormat to manipulation, abuse, and worse? Constantly questioning your own mind and behaviour to compensate for somebody else’s lack of self-reflection?

In my personal life I have had to examine what it is to protect my sense of right and wrong more than once. In the past I lamented the need for it, I stubbornly clung to my innocent ideals and hated that I was being forced into a battle I did not choose. I wasted hours, and years, trying to figure out how to better reason with these people. And in the process, allowed the abuse to continue because I didn’t put a firm stop to it.

I worried that I had become cynical, I worried that I was losing my values, I worried that by speaking my truth and acknowledging what was happening, I was sinking into pettiness. I was in a constant ethical and spiritual turmoil while my various opponents... well... weren’t. 

We can all agree that big and obvious crimes like murder or rape are heinous, and we have no difficulty in rejecting both the act and the perpetrator. The lines become blurred on the subtle crimes though. 

The businessman who knowingly causes financial ruin to others; the husband who continuously harms emotionally, mentally or physically; the wife who uses children to manipulate; the friend who betrays a trust; the ex who spreads rumours... the list is long and varied. 

The ‘good’ portion of the population seeks to cause no harm and genuinely struggle to understand how others don’t share their viewpoints. This has created an imbalance where the narcissists and sociopaths have free reign, leaving normal people to batten down the hatches in anticipation for the next attack while PC policies are updated to accommodate them. 

If you are struggling to find the parameters between healthy boundaries that don’t compromise on your values or sense of self, and standing firm against poor treatment, begin with these three steps to help you create firmer boundaries.

In case you have forgotten what the purpose of boundaries are, they are simply this; they teach others how you expect to be treated, and just too remind you, it is ok to be treated well.


  1. 1
    if you need to say ‘no’, don’t offer an explanation in order to justify yourself, or in some way unconsciously seek other's permission to do so. No is no, and you don’t need to explain why.
  2. 2
    Don't draw invisible lines with your boundaries. If you have recognised that a boundary has been crossed then enforce it. If your boundaries are clear and someone chooses to ignore them, that is something they must deal with, not you. What this means is the ensuing temper tantrum, shock, confusion or aggression that you are met with, is their emotion to navigate through, not yours.
  3. 3
    Put your well-being first. If you are consistently receiving poor treatment from a human being, accept the reality that they will continue to treat you this way. You don’t need to explain to them how they have hurt or disrespected you, or negotiate with them in order to get them to see your point... in fact the only thing you need to do, is walk away and minimise engagement as much as possible. Protect your feelings, not theirs.
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