A longstanding axiom of human judgment is that good people behave well and bad people behave poorly. By their fruits ye shall know them, to quote the Bible on the subject. If you want to identify who is a good person, look for how they act. The same goes for those who are evil.
This belief that each of us is defined by how we behave has been the basis for both religious and judicial systems in every age. A corollary to this thinking, religiously, is that good people (good behavers) receive divine blessing while evil people suffer rightfully. Another way then to differentiate the good folks from the bad ones is to note who is in a poor state economically, socially, or health wise. As popular as this particular notion of good versus bad may be, it never has squared with observed reality. It’s just something those who claim to be good hope could be true.
As logical and indisputable as the sentiment expressed in the title may seem, the assignment of the label good person or bad person based on observed behavior is fraught with problems. First and foremost is that we all see our own personal behavior fluctuate routinely from what we deem good to what we deem bad. Almost without exception we are all a mixed bag, so how do we properly apply the gold standard of goodness to anyone.
Some will undoubtedly suggest that we need to determine which type behavior predominates or whether the bad behavior is really bad or just a minor misstep. This again is a popular belief. Bad people are consistently bad, while good people are only occasionally bad and then in only largely insignificant ways. Of course, what is the measure of consistency given that any one of us can and will observe very little of anyone else’s behavior? We intimately know no one’s life but our own.
The idea of marking the evil people by the commission of the most heinous crimes and sins is again another attempt to demonstrate that humans can correctly judge one another by our actions. Here again the judges face a conundrum. There is no established basis for identifying minor sins which a good man may commit and still be good and the major ones which mark the evil man. In fact, if one is inclined to take Jesus at face value, his words in the Bible absolutely destroy the entire concept of big and little sins.
Whatever our desire to recognize evil, to oppose evil, and to declare our own righteousness, we always run up against the limitations inherent in being merely human.
We don’t know it all, not even close. All have sinned; there is none righteous when viewed through the lens of human judgment. If how you or I behave identifies anything at all, it is that we are all the same frail and flawed creatures in need of divine help. When that divine help ever materializes it cannot apply only to those we humans see as good enough.