“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”—Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar
“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”—Unknown
“How do you know a good man? By his acts.”—100 Acts of Male Goodness
Are we at our roots good or evil, or does neither of these capture the truth of our relationship to morality and ethics? Examples abound of individuals who were known for their corruption, and yet also for acts of generosity. The opposite of “whitewashing” or “greenwashing” stories, with no opportunity for snark: these are not bad people (or corporations, who not all agree are people) doing bad things and making them seem good, but genuinely going against type—crossing over to the Light Side.
This is not the conservative politician who campaigns against gay rights until his child comes out to him. And also, this is not about when Good People Do Bad Things, and the challenge this poses to one’s faith. Rather, these are the stories of villains, monsters, and sadists who, in some area of their lives, or just once, behave admirably.
What villain from history or headlines has been reported to have been kind, even just once—even mysteriously so? Why does this example of goodness shine as newsworthy, when committed by a person known for what he has done wrong? Should we be surprised when people who have victimized some people, are also capable of compassion or sacrifice on behalf of others?
What can we learn from a single heroic act in a man’s life, when the preponderance of his choices have been selfish, cowardly, or vengeful?
Can we atone for the evil that we do, without changing our immoral or unethical ways, through good works? Who or what is an example of this possibility?
We are looking for your stories and essays on the subject of When Bad People Do Good Things. Please send your pitch or completed submission (approximately 600-1200 words, plain text/Word/Google doc) to Justin Cascio by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday, May 25 for consideration. Accepted work will appear in an upcoming series on The Good Life, on The Good Men Project.
Have an idea for a series on The Good Life? Email Justin with your idea.
Read more Calls For Submissions.