Review: The Judas Syndrome
With his latest book, The Judas Syndrome: Why Good People Do Awful Things, therapist and author George Simon tries to explain why people do bad things, and how to deal with the fallout of hurtful human action.
Simon, the author of 2011’s Character Disturbance and composer of the well-known patriotic anthem “America: My Home,” identifies four general types of people who might do bad things. The first category he calls simply “bad people,” although he admits the difficulty of using that term. These are people with significant character failings whose actions cause unapologetic harm to those around them. If they are broken down to the point of admitting their failures and developing faith in Christ, Simon believes, bad people may reform into a better character.
People without serious character deficiencies are not immune from doing bad things, of course. Basically good people have good intentions that cause them to do harm (a second set), as is clear in the cases of over-parenting that the author cites. On the other hand, such people may also not do enough to prevent bad things (a third set), whether through neglect, fear, or indifference. A fourth set are basically good people who fail in the face of serious temptations.
For Simon, the root of destructive action or inaction lies in the strength of someone’s faith, which in turn goes a long way to determining the character of that person. Anyone may profess Christ verbally; in fact, bad people often use religion as a shield to cover their manipulative methods. But, he argues, genuine faith can only be seen through a person’s actions.
Simon uses a fairly broad repertoire of scripture, as well as a lofty religious vocabulary. In fact, the final chapter is devoted entirely to framing character—both flawed and virtuous—according to Christology. The most important questions in regard to character, he asserts, have to do with what we believe about Jesus: who he is, what his purpose was on earth, what his teachings mean, and so forth. He asks readers to consider what it means to follow Jesus, to be reborn, and to have faith that saves.
Ironically, for all his scripture quotations, Simon deals with very little with his title character, Judas, other than to say that there is a little of the betrayer in everyone. He uses a wide swath of scripture, but does not address much of the complexity contained within it. Neither does he provide information regarding modern brain science or personality disorders. For Simon, the final judgment on a person’s character is their actions, regardless of what may be behind them. This simplistic view leaves readers with the sense of incompleteness, a lack of thoroughness in the material.
Despite these failures, The Judas Syndrome does succeed in its efforts to bring human failing into real (or real-to-life) settings. The vignettes that compose the majority of Simon’s argument will be all too familiar to many readers, and their resolution may provide hope for those who struggle with bad things that happen, whether by their decision or someone else’s.