Chapter 16 — Good “Bad” News
Bad news is what seems to upset us most in our efforts to live a triumphant life. We try to fulfill the conditions we think God lays down, and then we begin to look forward to receiving the promised blessings. When the particular thing, we hope for does not materialize at the particular time we hope to get it, we get disappointed and disheartened, rebellious, or frightened, and in a panic we turn away from our faith and grasp at doubt—as if doubt were a refuge when faith fails!
I knew a man who had a fine position in New York. He was the editor of a fiction magazine, a position he had always wanted to have; and his salary was better than any other salary he had ever had. He lived in a suburb, had a very comfortable house to live in; and nice furniture, and congenial neighbors, and many interesting friends. His work was easy, and he loved it. He was popular and looked up to. He had settled into what seemed a satisfactory career, with every evidence that it was permanent. It gave him opportunity to write as an avocation, which was the one thing he wanted most to do. His writings were being accepted and paid for at good rates, and published in good papers and magazines. He was a man to be envied, he thought.
Then suddenly, out of a clear sky, one day he received a note from his employer, the publisher, telling him that his services would not be needed after the following week. He was ousted from his comfortable job. His fine salary stopped. He had to give up his comfortable home. He had to move away from his congenial friends and neighbors. He looked upon that note from his employer which began all this change of circumstances for him as “bad” news, very, very bad news.
He had to leave New York, where he liked to live. He went wandering about the country, trying to make a living by writing, and trying to find a cheap place to live, because his earnings were small. Hard times came along, and the magazines to which he had formerly consistently sold his writings began to curtail their buying, and his market vanished. He got poorer and poorer. Every time one of his stories was declined by an editor who formerly bought his stories, he thought it was bad news. Every time he read a newspaper, he found statements about the hard times in it, and he thought that was bad news too.
He settled in a small town in up-State New York where he seemed to find conditions that suited his purposes. He was just beginning to get well started there in making friends, and was beginning to hope that he might weather the hard times there, because expenses were low, and that he might ultimately succeed in his writing there, because it was interesting country and material for stories was abundant, when he came into very unfortunate conflict with a man who immediately took a dislike to him. This man had influence enough in the town to make it very uncomfortable for him to stay there. So this writer-editor felt that he had to move again, and again he looked upon the episode that caused that necessity as very, very “bad news.”
He went to another small town, a hundred miles away, and tried to start again. But bad news seemed to pursue him. Still his stories would not sell, still the times were hard. Then one day he met a motion-picture producer who was making a series of pictures up there in the countryside, and who needed just such a man as our editor-writer was. The motion-picture man hired the writing man and things seemed rosy indeed. The work was novel and interesting, and the pay was better than any the writer had previously received.
Everything went well for a few weeks. Then suddenly one day the motion-picture company came to the end of its contract with the firm that distributed its product, and the contract was not renewed. Bad news in the shape of discharge from employment came once more into the writing man’s experience. Bad news. Bad news! But the motion-picture producer gave the writing man a letter of recommendation, which he took back to New York—where he got into another motion-picture company. Presently his salary began to increase, and his authority to rise, and his position to become more important.
Inside of a year he was getting more than twice as much salary as he had received as an editor. Inside of two years his salary was more than three times as much as he had received as an editor. Year by year his income increased. In three years his income had multiplied to five times its original proportions, and when six years had passed, his income was nearly ten times that which had been paid him in the position from which he had been discharged.
Now, all other questions aside, where was the “bad” news? If he had not been discharged from his comfortable editorial berth, he would not have been foot-loose. If he had not been forced to reduce his expenditures, he would not have gone to the country. If he had not been virtually driven out of one town by the ill will of an “enemy,” he would not have gone to the town where the motion-picture company was at work. If he had not failed to sell his stories to the magazines, he would never have taken a first job in the movies; and if the first job in the movies had not come suddenly to an end, he would never have gotten the later, bigger ones. “Bad news?” What is bad news?
This sounds like a chapter of accidents. But its meaning seems fairly clear. Bad news may not be bad news at all. It may be good news. It depends on how you look at it. It depends on how long you look at it. It depends on what you do with it, what you do about it. Instead of taking news that disappoints us or postpones events for which we are wishing as bad news, why not look more closely to discover just what it means? Why not take it for granted that it is good news? “Good ‘bad’ news,” we may call it, if we are permitted to be whimsical. Why not take it for granted that all news is merely directions for the road that we want to travel. When you are driving cross-country, you come to a stop sign. You don’t think that is bad news, do you? Of course it isn’t. It is merely the best way of telling you that you have come to a highway, where the best way to avoid an accident is to stop till you are sure the road is clear for you to go ahead. Or you come to the top of a steep hill, and the safest thing to do is to go into second gear and go down slowly. Or maybe you have come upon a detour sign. Is that bad news? Maybe it seems so sometimes. But it simply tells you that a side road is the best way to get where you want to go. The detour and the stop may seem to delay you, but not so long as getting stuck in mud or sand, or turning back from a washed-out bridge, or having an accident would delay you. So the signs are good “bad” news.
A large part of the news we get seems bad to us at first. But if we will look upon it as good, it will turn out to be good. There is all old saying, “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good.” It might be changed to read, truthfully, “It is an ill wind that does not blow good in the end.” Paul says, “Overcome evil with good.” Did you ever think of overcoming bad news with good? that is, by just seeing it as good news from the start—surprising good news sometimes, of course, but nevertheless good. You will be astonished how suddenly and surely all bad news will be transformed into good news when you are determined to see it that way.
Some one has said that we should look upon every event in life as a “heavenly messenger” sent direct to us to show us the way to go or what to do to realize our heart’s desires. That is one of the wisest and best of all sayings. Calling these messenger’s or messages “good ‘bad’ news” is just a way of making the idea arresting, thought provoking, memorable. It doesn’t matter what we call news, if we see it as good. No matter what the news is, if the weather mall says rain, if the letter that we looked for does not come, if the decision is against our hopes, if the bank fails, if the doctor shakes his head, just stop, look, and listen, and the real meaning of it will show itself. “Bad” news? What shall I do about it? Get still and think about it quietly! Intuition and inspiration will surely throw light upon it that will transform its whole appearance, that will open it up in beauty as the sun opens a flower.