The Good Person Test: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

This particular question is sometimes denied by the audience (seems that people don’t often steal things) but when it is answered, “Yes.” The next part of the script is to get them to answer what people who steal are called, and the answer is, “A thief.” To which the interviewer then claims that the audience has admitted to being a thief.

Sometimes if the interviewer cannot get a satisfactory answer out of the audience they attempt to conflate theft with goofing off at work or downloading music from the Internet. (Never let someone attempt to suggest that copyright infringement is theft: they’re wrong about the law and should educate themselves.) This behavior is common to the script of The Good Person Test, when it feels like it cannot stick someone with one of its pins it starts to play linguistic and semantic games.

Does taking a quarter from your sibling when you were six really make you a thief? This is a deliberate distortion that insinuates that a singleton act can condemn a person to a label that as a group we wouldn’t put on any individual unless they showed a pattern of theft. It then sociopathically conflates the entire spectrum of harm caused by theft from the most petty to the most damaging into the same moral exactitude. This is the same black and white thinking failure seen throughout the script.

Perhaps people just haven’t gotten it yet, but a person is not a thief if they take something once and then end up making recompense for it. Theft does actually cause damage. It’s illegal because it removes property from another person, it causes harm; the extent of that harm varies—and it varies widely. The moral nature of the theft is tied directly to the harm caused by the theft.

To ask someone: “have you ever stolen something, even something insignificant?” and then say, “If you have, you’re a thief!” is flippantly disrespectful of everyone listening because the script is going out of its way to ignore harm and then act like all theft is equal.

This is just another pale, transparent attempt to denigrate the audience without actual substance. It has little bearing on actual moral behavior and serves only to buttress the black and white, non-sequitur conclusions advocated by the script.

Next: “Have you ever looked at another person, who is not your spouse, with lust?”

Previous: “Have you ever told a lie, no matter how trivial?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever told a lie? No matter how trivial.”

According to the script at this point if the person says, “Yes,” which they invariably shall, the interviewer then tells them that they are therefore a liar. This can be played any number of ways, generally the interviewer will try to get them to “admit” that they’re a liar by asking them, “What do we call people who tell lies?” “Well, liars.” If the person for some reason says that they’ve never told a lie the interviewer either dismisses or laughs at them.

There are number of grossly disrespectful assumptions being made here. One, wrapped up in their definition of “lie”, seems to be that any misrepresentation, no matter how minor or trivial, makes you a liar. Except that this is only the case for grade school children—and even they quickly forget the slight of being told something that was untrue. Why? Because the social animals that we are carefully shape our speech in order to communicate our boundaries.

Only a person who is consistently dishonest (pathological), inflicts injury with dishonesty, or commits fraud gets to wear the label “liar.” This is because everyone knows full well that the thresholds of what each of us consider to be honesty vary greatly between different people, different situations, and even differing levels of veracity. Furthermore, back to the boundaries issue, to be social animals we cannot always be fully honest with one another; there are social situations which exist where we are forced by protocol to dance around honest answers.

For this type of emotional blackmail to work for the Good Person Test must assert that nearly every use of deliberate misrepresentation must be the worst kind.

Some of the people who use the Good Person Test appear to know this well enough that they try to make a loophole for it, stating that discretion isn’t lying. Which means pretty much most people aren’t in fact “liars” because they’ve therefore never really told a “lie.” But they cannot hold to this definition because it makes this entire part of the script moot. And everyone who listens to it should know this.

Is lying always immoral? Let’s take the case of Anne Frank. We have a case where a reigning authority is searching for particular people whom you have every reason to believe are innocent and the direct result of their capture will be their horrible torture and deaths. Do you lie in order to protect them from a horrific fate? Does telling the truth therefore make you culpable for their horrible torture and murder? In this case it would appear that lying is extremely moral; but also telling the truth would be distinctly immoral.

Perhaps moral acts aren’t as simple as singleton script stanzas without nuance.

The Good Person Test is once again attempting to put a hook into natural social behavior. It makes the assertion that “all lying is bad/immoral” and therefore people should be eternally condemned for it—but then it fails to explain why. Like every other step of the Good Person Test it attempts to leverage guilt over telling lies as a reason of calling someone guilty of breaking an asserted “law.”

The worst part about this portion of the Good Person Test is that it’s then leveraged as a pathetic attempt to weaken the resolve of the person answering questions. Specifically I am going to call out a very singular abuse of social and extroverted individuals. If the interviewer is capable of getting them to admit that they’re a “liar” through manipulative semantics they then pull this line out of the script on the next question:

“But how can I believe you? You admitted you’re a liar.”

This is abusive. It is an uncalled for disrespect of the person who has taken their time to answer these questions, it is set up for emotional blackmail, and a deliberate denigration of a peer—no amount of jocularity or false irony added to this line make it any less inexcusable. This specific line mocks the good faith that anyone answering these questions—it is beyond the pale in its contempt of the audience.

Finally, this question does damage to the very fabric and core of what it is to be social and loving creatures. It deliberately ignores and dismisses all the truth that a person may have told in their life; and instead places an unlikely and unexplained weight only to lying while all actual honesty feather-light in comparison.

In our interactions with other people do we want to dismantle, damage, and disrespect them because they can and have told lies in their lives? What kind of test for a “good person” fails to weight based on good done and instead gives even minor wrongs a greater strength. This is sociopathic.

This is a test immoral in its own right. It is trying only to puncture the self-esteem of an otherwise good, honest individual by baldly exploiting the weaknesses of every social animal; and then uses that puncture in order to get unsupported and knowable false claims of guilt accepted.

Next: “Have you ever stolen anything, even something insignificant?”

Previous: “Have you ever been angry at someone?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: “Have you ever been angry at another person?”

Depending on the script being used, the interviewer will warm up the audience in a variety of ways. Primarily by asking them if they think they’re a good person. “Do you believe you’re a good person? Well, if you think that you shouldn’t have any trouble taking this test.” The next line varies also, but there’s only a set few so I’m going to pick the script used the last time someone tried this on me.

“Have you ever gotten so mad at someone you wanted to kill them? Or, how about if you were cut off in traffic and you shook your fist and shouted at the person in the next car. Ever done that? If so, you’re a murderer. ‘He so ever who has hatred in his heart for his fellow man has committed murder in his heart.’”

This line is often presented by asking either if a person has “ever hated someone else” but more often than not the interviewer will water it down by asking if they’d ever simply been “angry at someone else.” Such as getting angry at someone who cut you off in traffic, stolen from you, or caused you harm. The common stripe between these acts is that they’re all things that would raise the hackles of average, well-adjusted people.

Of course, the reply to the “Yes…” is “If you get angry at someone you have committed murder in your heart and that makes you a murderer.” No, a non-sequitur judgment based on a thought-crime doesn’t really convince me. We don’t live in a society where getting angry is murder—it’s childish to presume that anger, a lizard-brain reaction, is equivalent to unlawfully ending the life of a peer. By morally conflating these two things—anger and murder—the script deliberately confuses extremely disparate concepts.

As a community it is unhealthy to react to anger in the same way we would murder. Anger is an emotional reaction to frustrating situations; murder is a criminal act, bound from us by law and culminates in the end of a life. One is temporary, fleeting, an emotion and a natural part of our own dialogue with ourselves and each other. Murder is forever—an ending, a socially damaging act.

Think for a moment how repugnant it is for anyone to combine these two things into one.

How can we have a sane discussion about why we find murder immoral if at the same time we have to also resolve how really it’s exactly the same as if the murder didn’t happen: one person got mad at the other.

This part of the Good Person Test is sociopathic: murder and anger are not morally equivalent.

When this part of the Good Person Test is used, the interviewer must somehow divorce the human condition (their own condition) from reality. They are deliberately abusing the credulity of the person they’re talking to, attempting to turn normal, human emotional reactions—the very underpinnings of why we behave the way we do—into criminal acts, which no sane criminal code has ever done.

This is a form of emotional blackmail, a disingenuous attempt to flog the listener with human nature. To treat them as if they are not rationally responsible for their own behavior simply because of their emotions—especially if all evidence shows that they’ve been angry before but never committed murder. Manipulating people by emotionally blackmailing them is a reprehensible behavior; this is not the act of a compassionate, caring person.

Next: “Have you ever told a lie?”

Index: The Good Person Test is immoral

The Good Person Test: A Critique

The Dishonest and Immoral Good Person Test

Over recent years we’ve seen the rise of a particularly pernicious form of propaganda among evangelical preachers. The so-called “Good Person Test” which has received little visible criticism. With a little bit of rational thinking and actual empathy for other human beings we can quickly see why this religious sales pitch is immoral.

“The Good Person Test” is an immoral psychological device designed by Ray Comfort and employed by Way of the Master evangelicals as a tool of conversion. It is a poorly constructed syllogism that uses emotional blackmail, disrespectful treatment, moral conflation, and outright condescension in order to abuse the credulous and social.

I am going to approach it in segments because this is the way it is presented.

Anger is murder

One lie, always a liar, aka lying cannot be moral

One theft, always a thief

Attraction is sex, aka attraction is cheating, aka sex is bad

• The vanity of a name, aka do you have a point? (I am not doing this one because it has no relation with reality)

• All roads lead to eternal torture

The script itself is a better litmus test for the so-called “goodness”, or at least moral intelligence, of the interviewer than it is for the audience. By far the worst aspect of this script happens to be the unspoken dialogue steeped in Christian mythology that whosever breaks a single of the unsubstantiated rules will suffer a horrible punishment. This is especially repulsive when the script starts to use thought crime as a reason to lay blame rather than personal integrity, character, or action.

I find this particular form of evangelism to be repellent. These people manipulate the good graces of their audience, beat them with emotional blackmail, false entitlement, false intimacy, and use other con game tactics that are all frauds of social human interaction. The double-standard that is portrayed by this test has never been above-board. I hope that if only those who use it would examine the technique, they would choose to abandon this unhealthy, disgusting behavior.

Perhaps if they do, they can become more like the good people the so-called “Good Person Test” claims to detect.