Are There Bad People In Our World?

What determines who a person is? We say that you can tell a tree by the fruit that it bears. So that means that bad trees will bear bad fruit. We believe that one’s character is defined by one’s actions. Actions come from thoughts. Then, one that has bad thoughts and acts on them has bad actions. Those bad actions, in turn, would make him a bad person- if our previous thought holds true.

We know that statement is incorrect. Good people have bad thoughts and they act on them. Yet, we don’t call them bad people. We excuse the action and say they made a mistake. So are there any bad people in our world then? And if there are, can they be converted from bad to good?

In our society, ex-offenders are seen as bad people. Their bad actions are not viewed as mistakes. The evidence is found in the fact that criminal background checks are becoming the norm. Employers have blanket policies that state that they will not hire anyone that has been convicted of a felony at any time in his life. Public housing agencies have the same policy. Even some privately owned complexes ask about a person’s criminal history. Local, state and the federal government also use felony convictions as a method of disqualification of otherwise qualified candidates for employment. The negative stigma that is associated with a felony record is one that is virtually impossible to overcome.

It appears that a felony conviction makes a person bad. Society says that they can’t be redeemed. Once bad, always bad. Otherwise, there would not be so many restrictions placed to keep ex-offenders out of society. Ex-offenders live among non-offenders daily. They are your neighbors and, in some cases, your co-workers. You attend church with them. They serve you at your favorite restaurant. They are your friend. In most cases, you would never know they had a record if they hadn’t revealed it to you. And once the revelation is made, you never see them the same again. You begin to expect them to do things that are illegal or immoral. You begin to look for their faults. You stop trusting them and begin to analyze their every action. Is that fair?

What separates an ex-offender or convicted felon from the average citizen? The convicted felon has a documented record of wrongdoing, while the average citizen just didn’t get caught. Their actions are the same, but getting caught makes one worse than the one that got away.

The original question was, “Are there any bad people (in our world)?” It appears to me that the answer would be “no”, but our perception tells us that is not the case. Fear of the unknown and media hype has made the label of ex-offender worse than the Scarlet letter. A criminal record follows a person for the remainder of his life and it is a roadblock that can’t be removed. The simple fact that a person was caught breaking the law makes them a bad person- FOREVER. Rehabilitation is possible for sex addicts, drug addicts and those addicted to gambling. Employers will even allow an employer with an addiction a chance to get help and remain employed. But society doesn’t believe that a criminal can be reformed. Society doesn’t have any faith in the prison system as it relates to its ability to correct a person’s actions. That theory will not stand against scrutiny, but no one will stand and cry out against this travesty and grave injustice.

Prisons are necessary and there are individuals that need to be separated from society because they refuse to follow the rules and law of the land. There are people that choose to rebel and they have no respect for life or freedom. They need to be locked away. But the majority of ex-offenders are not in the previous category. Most ex-offenders eventually learn their lesson and have a sincere desire to change their negative behavior into productive behavior. The problem is society doesn’t separate these two distinct groups. The only thing these two groups have in common is the fact that they both were found guilty of breaking the law. The latter will never do it again, while the former uses his time in prison to hone his skill to come out an be a better criminal. And we have a place for him.

If we are ever to become a successful society and reduce crime, we must see the importance of re-entry. It is vital that we grasp the concept that all people have the capacity to be reformed. We must allow them a chance to prove themselves. If they have followed the prescribed method of repayment to society and completed whatever sanctions that were levied against them, they MUST have a chance to provide for themselves and their families. They MUST have the ability to obtain housing. They MUST be able to be seen as humans that bleed, breath and live just like those that have never broken the law.

I never knew that breaking the law would make me forfeit my ability to be a human. Animals have more rights that convicted felons. This should not be so. There is no such thing as a bad person. But there are people that refuse to be obedient.

Pastor Brown