I’ve Got Bad News and I’ve Got Good News (Which Will You Choose?)


Photo Credit: Richard Ricciardi via Compfight cc

“Daddy, I’ve got bad news!”

I’m getting into the car after making the mistake of sending my youngest two children out to the garage on their own. I finish getting in and I look in the rearview mirror. My son’s face is contorted by righteous fury. “She called me stupid two times!”

On this particular morning, I simply don’t have the energy to sort out discrepant eyewitness testimonies, request the appropriate apologies, and mediate forgiveness. So, instead, I say, “Do you have any good news for me?”

His face turns thoughtful and then a smile breaks out upon it. “I found my fleece under the seat!” He holds up a ball of something blue that looks vaguely like the fleece he lost last autumn. I smile, too.

The world is full of bad news.

And the world is full of good news.

Which will you choose?

Bad News and Good News

The bad news, if we choose it, can make despair grow within us. And the truth is, we don’t even have to choose the bad news. It chooses us. Life is messy, and the massive media industry survives by bringing it to us relentlessly. Despair is the main event in cable news and online media. Yet, good news, if we choose it, can make hope grow within us. For instance:

I’ve got bad news: a year later, and they still haven’t found Flight MH370. It’s heartbreaking and tragic and the grief of it needs to be felt. And I’ve also got good news: since MH370 disappeared, more than ten million commercial flights have landed safely, and a number of those flights have carried volunteers to West Africa to provide aid in the Ebola epidemic—they’ve risked their lives because they believe all lives are worth the risk.

I’ve got bad news: Ferguson happened. And I’ve got good news: I know someone who spent their holidays in Ferguson, working for peace and healing in that community, because she believes love is a like a white blood cell—it always rushes to the site of the wound.

I’ve got bad news: ISIS is what happens when the human ego hijacks a religion for it’s own agenda. And I’ve got good news: all over the world right now men and women everywhere are subordinating their egos to their souls, choosing love over hatred, unity over tribalism, and compassion over violence.

I’ve got bad news: the world is falling apart. And I’ve also got good news: I know a little girl who can turn a fake laugh into a contagious belly laugh—every time, and somewhere right now one human being is looking another human being in the eye and they are both becoming more human in the moment, and the great big story of this great big human project isn’t over, and it may look bleak right now but that’s how every good story looks right before the mess gets redeemed.

They’re Everywhere

Now we’re in the minivan driving to school. My son is still holding his rediscovered blue fleece and a smile still lingers on his face, when we turn a corner and see bad news ahead of us. An accident. A woman’s car has crashed into a snow bank and is marooned on a drift.

And then we see the good news.

A young man has pulled over, removed the floor mats from his own car, and he’s inserting them under her wheels in an attempt to give her traction and free her car.

The bad news is everywhere.

And the good news is, too.

Which Will You Choose?

I’ve got bad news: the world is a wreck. Like a car impaled on a snow bank, the world has gone off the rails. But I’ve got good news, every time another mess happens, every time another accident occurs, every time another wound is inflicted, every time another conflict arises, every time something or someone crumbles a little more…every time…it is the seed of good news. Every time, it can be the birthplace of redemption. And, if we look closely, more often than not, we’ll see good news is born from it.

Let’s choose to be aware of the good news.

Better yet, let’s choose to become the good news.

Question:Have you been a witness to the good news? Have you been the good news? You’re invited to share your news in the comments, so all of us can choose it. You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

35 thoughts on “I’ve Got Bad News and I’ve Got Good News (Which Will You Choose?)

  1. Loved this Kelly and esp the way you describe bad news and immediately follow it up with good news to be seen and appreciated in the same moment. It reminds me of the saying of the wonderful Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known holocaust survivor who lived until 110 in London “I look where it is good. I know about the bad, but I look at the good thing”. Tony Robbins did a wonderful interview with her when she was 107 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOvOpuSMS-U). I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here, I just felt it so perfectly complimented your own words in your post. Tamsin

    • I am inspired beyond words this morning. Thank you, Dr. Flanagan and a special thank you to Tamsin for sharing that remarkable video. I’m changed by it this day!

      • Thank you Donna for your lovely comment, I’m so happy it inspired! Alice Herz-Sommer was indeed a remarkable lady wasn’t she. Her words also particularly resonated with me as I am also a twin, luckily both of us are of the optimistic nature 🙂 Thank you Dr Flanagan for your post that prompted this lovely exchange today.

        • Tamsin, thank you for initiating this lovely exchange and let me echo Donna’s gratitude for your sharing of the video. It is very good news, indeed.

          • My pleasure Dr Flanagan – it was a great post of yours that kicked it all off and a lovely exchange 🙂 Look forward to future exchanges and more good news here. All the best to you for now Tamsin

  2. Bad news: there is bullying in school. Good news: my 11 year old daughter stood up for it, went to the guidance counselor and was courageous enough to go against 1/2 of her class to do it.
    Bad news: there are too many people hungry. Good news: there is a wonderful food pantry in my town and my girls and I spent $400 stocking the empty shelves the other day.
    Bad news: people are dying. Good news: I am a hospice volunteer who spent 2 years with one woman during her journey into transition, she became a dear friend.
    Not to brag, but just to share the love, it’s everywhere and we just have to change the focus on our life’s lens! Thanks for this post, HUGELY GRATEFUL!

    • Yes! Please “brag”! It’s okay to spread the good news from a place of humility and joy. Thank you for being good news, Shannon, and thank you for sharing yourself and your experience with us.

  3. Dr. Flanagan, I have been reading your blog for about a year. I wrote a blog post this week which made me think of you, a short piece on finding beauty… or as you state good, in the midst of mess, in this case the bad news of losses in aging. heartsseenblog.com March 16th
    I think you would like it.

  4. The good news, just like the message of the Gospel, is out there competing with the bad news that is so easy to focus on. So I choose to focus on the good, which is why I look forward to Wednesday morning e-mails to help keep that focus.

  5. ‘the birthplace of redemption’….nice.
    In other words: Within every problem are the seeds to it’s solution. And, as John Lennon so aptly suggested: ‘There are no problems, only solutions’.

    • I’m pretty sure I’ve never been quoted along with Lennon before. I’ll take it. : )

  6. I’m so grateful to you for putting this message into the world. I wonder if just by looking at the good news we do become the good news. What we appreciate appreciates. Beautiful. I add my thanks to Tamsin for the video. It and she are remarkable.

    • Oh, yes, I like that: “Just by looking at the good news we become the good news.”

  7. Love love love this post! There is so much good and love in the world lots of times we have to seek it out-

  8. THANK YOU, Dr. Flanagan!!! This soooooo needs to be emphasized on Facebook and other social media. I’m going to share it right now! God bless you!

  9. Kelly, thank you SO much for bringing the good new over the bad news to light and making me realize that there IS good news! Every day I see the news and I am mortified and scared – it’s no wonder most of my adult life I avoided the news. Until Ebola. Until Measles. Until I needed to be informed. But then I saw how much hurt and hate and killing and just obliteration is out there. I have a hard time seeing the good news through the veil. You’ve given me a better perspective to seeing the good around the bad. To look for it purposefully. Your article, once again, is so real and so deep that it strikes a cord in all of us. The world needs more of YOU and your written word!

    • Catherine, you’re experience is not unusual. One topic pulls us into regular news watching, and then it’s like we can’t take our eyes off the train wreck. That happens to me periodically, too. It’s good to take control again over what news we let in!

    • Sonja, good to hear from you; I hope you’re well! I would be a very hard job to be in. Glad you’re following your heart.

  10. Kelly, thank you again. I have no other words… soooooo needed to read this today.

    Tamsin, thank you also for the great video. Everything is a present. WOW!

  11. BTW, I was at a convenience store today, and a woman in line was angry that there weren’t more cashiers working. When the time came for the person in front of her to go, he gave away his spot to the angry woman. Her anger dissolved. Good news, indeed!

  12. I thank you so, so much for this blog. This is exactly what I try to do with my blog, my pinterest and the things that I share on my Facebook page. The focus of my artist page and blog is to bring more joy into the world and inspire people, to bring a little sunshine when the world seems bent on clouds. I am always grateful when someone speaks from a place of joy and hope instead.

  13. I love this post! It’s all in how you look at it. This brought me some much needed perspective. Thank you!

  14. So good Kelly. Being cynical and critical is easy. But there’s plenty of good news out there, and to your point, go be good news. Love this.

  15. It’s funny you know, I receive these emails each week. Most times I eagerly open and devour. Sometimes I don’t. I know it’s there and I wait. It always calls me when I need to hear it most. And today was that day for this post. The Bad News found me BIG TIME on the weekend. Autism is not my favourite 17-year-old activity these days. BUT, the Good News found me today. My brother-in-law popped over with a Kit-Kat…. no reason… just did. It saved me…. The wrapper is now living in my happy jar. I’m going to keep this post for a while… Just to remind myself. Thank you.

    • I love that a Kit Kat was the good news, Vanessa. Such a huge encouragement to the rest of us to listen to that quiet voice, prompting us to do small things. They make a huge difference. Thanks for sharing, and I hope you are in a stretch of good news!

  16. Bad news- I suffered a severe head injury that has robbed me of my ability to articulate my thoughts as well as I used to. I’m trapped in my own body.
    Good news- the injury did not take away my comprehension so I’m able to read and enjoy UnTangled posts and comments. I love the intelligent discussion here!

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