Good Ideas From Bad Individuals

In my tale of two grandmothers, I described my “bad” grandma…

My swearing-smoking-drinking-gambling grandmother was a constant, loving, generous, steady, faithful, and gracious presence in my life – until she died of lung cancer when I was 19 years old.

Life is interesting that way.

It’s far less black and white than we think. Our categories don’t always have the space for what is actually there. We want to use the labels “good” or “bad,” “sinner” or “saint,” but the truth usually is found in the AND…

We are simultaneously both good AND bad, sinner AND saint.

Paul the Apostle (who is credited with the taking Christianity to the world and writing more books of the New Testament than anyone else) acknowledged this “sinner AND saint” truth when he wrote,

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. —1 Timothy 1.15

I love that Paul didn’t say, “I WAS the worst of them all,” but chose instead to admit, “I AM the worst.”

Here we have the “worst sinner” writing the Bible under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…

He’s both good and bad, sinner and saint.

And so are we.

The idea that we learn all the good things from good people and get all our bad ideas from bad individuals is misguided.

Instead, we learn good AND bad things from both good AND bad people.

I’ve learned plenty of bad lessons from good sources.

I’ve also learned some really good things from some obviously bad people.

My “bad” grandmother taught me to love people unconditionally. She taught me to work hard and to stay put. She taught me faithfulness, and she taught me to love the Seattle Seahawks.

I’m thankful for all the good things I’ve learned from “bad” people!

There have been a number of reports recently on questionable leadership tactics used by financial guru Dave Ramsey. Reading about it all, I don’t think I’d ever want to work for the guy – but I am still very thankful for the valuable lessons I’ve learned from Dave Ramsey through Financial Peace University.

I’m learning good things from Tim Cook, Anthony Bourdain, Jeff Lewis, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Tom Ford, Tina Fey (who is not on Twitter and talks about what she thinks of Twitter in this video with Jerry Seinfeld), and many others…

  • I’m learning to pay greater attention to the details.
  • I’m learning to be curious, to ask lots of questions, and to be afraid of no one.
  • I’m learning to be more clear and concise in my communication.
  • I’m learning to lead with compassion and purpose.
  • I’m learning to appreciate art, fashion and beauty.
  • I’m learning to fuel my creativity.
  • I’m learning how to be funny.

I’m learning lots of good things from “bad” people.

Sometimes Christians struggle with this concept. We feel like we need to discredit everything scientists say because it’s “science, not the Bible.”

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The idea that we can only learn from the Bible or from what is taught in church or sold at a Christian bookstore or communicated by a “good” Christian person is crazy. Ridiculous. Goofy. Self-sabotaging.

Rather than rejecting all information from “bad” people, we should live like Daniel and his friends did, as fearless foreigners—thriving in Babylon.

Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were Jews who had been kidnapped, castrated, and given new names to honor the false gods of Babylon.

Despite being out of his element and having plenty of reasons to be afraid, Daniel thrived in Babylon.

Daniel learned the culture. He was educated in Babylonian thought and he participated in the culture, yet he did not compromise his faith. He honored God and pointed others to his Savior.

The bottom line? Daniel took what was good—even when it came from “bad” people. I want to be like that.

I don’t want to reject someone’s wisdom or writings or ideas because I’ve labeled the individual as “bad.”

Think about it. If we’re going to reject all content from “bad” people, wouldn’t we have to throw out everything Paul wrote in the Bible?

I want to be a learner.

Do you?


QUESTION: What good things have you learned from “bad” people?


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

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