Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

The Whole Concept of Good and Bad Is a Lie

As controversial as it sounds, the idea that there is nothing good or bad is thousands of years old, and I first read about it probably before I turned 20. it’s no news to me, but if you’re new to this idea, it could be quite mind blowing.

There is an old Chinese story in which the old man Sai lost a horse. People said how bad it was but Sai said how could it not be a good thing. Days later the horse came back with a good horse following it. Everybody congratulated but Sai said how could it not be a bad thing. Days later his son fell from the horse and got hurt. Then he was freed from army service.

Many people think this story says how good things can turn bad and vice versa. But I beg to differ.

My Point: Things Are Good and Bad at the Same Time

Bad things are good, and good things are bad too.

I will give you examples.

Breaking up and feeling hurt is bad, but ending a toxic relationship is good.

Quit school and pursue your dream career is good, but not getting a diploma is bad.

Travel around the world is good, but not seeing old friends for a long time is bad.

Losing your job is bad, but have a chance to start all over again is good.

You can argue that breaking up with someone you love is not good at all, but I will say breaking up still frees you to find someone else.

Or the classic example in Logotherapy, even if your beloved wife died and left you in agony, you could still argue it is a good thing because she doesn’t have to suffer the same pain because she dies first.

I think it’s a pretty fucked up argument but its point is valid.

Let’s now do a little experiment, think about 5 good things in your life. Now just for a moment pretend they are all bad and give each one a reason.

Do the same with bad things, too.

Seriously, do it. Stop reading.

If you have done the experiment and worked hard enough, you will find out that you can always find a reason why good things are bad, or why bad things are good.

Now you may be confused. How could this happen? How could this good thing be bad?

The answer is pretty simple.

Good and Bad Are Just Our Opinions

It’s not that things are good or bad, it’s that we think they are good or bad.

Take quitting school as an example, people who have faith in traditional job path would see it as a bad thing while people like James Atlucher will see it as a good thing.

There are many people make money on the internet after they’re fired. At first they think getting fired is bad, but after they make money, they often see getting fired as one of the best things happened to them.

What changed? Their thinking.

That’s why there is a concept as positive thinking. Think good, not bad, because it’s our thinking that decides whether something is good or bad, so we just change our mind and everything will be good.

But this somehow misses the point. You have every reason to believe everything is good, and you have every reason to believe everything is bad, too. So why do you have to believe everything is fine, instead of believing the world is a living hell?

Not many people give too much thought to this question. Honestly, I don’t believe many people would understand this question at all.

Because in their mind, good is still good and should be pursued, bad is still bad and need to be eliminated.

I don’t quite understand this logic. If everything can be seen both as good and bad, then nothing would be good and nothing would be bad, the whole concept of good and bad will be useless and should be abandoned immediately.

It’s kinda like when everybody is both a man and a woman, if that happens, the concept of gender loses its meaning, and the words man and woman will not exist.

Nobody will say I’m a dualhanded man or I’m a quadhanded man because everybody naturally has two hands, there is no difference. (This is also why arguing male and female are the same is stupid, if they’re the same there would be no male or female toilet.)

When everything is both good and bad, the difference between good and bad is lost, so should the concept of good and bad.

But instead many people argue everything is good.

To Make Matters Worse, Good and Bad Can Be Used to Express Feelings

Most people cannot distinguish their feelings and thinking from things and people around them.

It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true.

Some examples:

“She is such a bad person! She always screams!” = “I cannot concentrate because she is too loud, I am anxious and wants her to speak lower.”

“My dad is such a jerk. He never buys me gifts” = “I’m sad that my dad doesn’t show me his love.”

“I’ve just met a great person! He is really very exciting!” = “He made me feel very happy.”

“The stock market is gonna crash.” = “I believe the stock market is gonna crash.”

The last one sounds more ridiculous but it’s very common that people mistake their opinions as objective facts or even unshakeable truth.

Many Chinese young single male would ask how they can get a girlfriend when every woman loves only money without realizing it’s definitely not a fact. But don’t argue with them, like any losers with a loser’s belief, they won’t listen.

On a second thought, maybe I should remove the word Chinese in the above paragraph.


I wrote this post months earlier and I could see clearly how I was having a hard time expressing myself.

Still I believe I got much of my points down. If there is anything you do not understand, feel free to ask in comments.