I was driving through a California city after doing a youth presentation when I noticed a sign on the road that said, “Woe to those who believe good to be evil and evil to be good.” I thought about what this meant since I had just spent an hour talking to a young man who was dealing with this exact dilemma.
The young man is a former gang member who is trying to change his reputation from being a negative disruption to a productive member of his school and community. Behind the sun glasses that hid his eyes from revealing any emotion, he told me, “I want to change but I can’t let these dudes think I’m soft”. Yet, with intention and sincerity in his voice, he expressed a desire to move away from drugs and violence. Like many who grow up in adverse situations, he believed that doing good would leave him vulnerable.
I remember growing up believing the same to be true. For me to prove myself worthy, I had to engage in violent destructive behavior. It was only after enduring many tragedies that I came to understand how my activities were not making me stronger but filling me with despair. I shared my story with this young man and hoped that he heard my words that doing good is never an evil thing. I remembered the struggle in his face as we parted and understood how difficult it was going to be for him to change. Difficult but not impossible.