Chaplain’s Corner: Vol XII

“Good News-Bad News”

You need to deliver some good news and some bad news. Which news should you pass along first?

Daniel Pink, author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing”, reports that most doctors, teachers and personnel managers prefer to lead with the positive. Their conviction is that good news is a great way to cushion people to receive bad news. Recent studies, however, suggest that such an approach has it backwards. When on the receiving end of news roughly four out of five people prefer to start with a downer and morph into something happier.

We want the good news to wrap things up. Pink calls it the Principle of Endings. We like sequences that use the rise whether than the fall, that lift us rather than leave us dangling.

They asked students at The University of Michigan to rate on a scale of zero to ten some new varieties of Hershey Kisses. Which tasted best? Each of the students was given five Kisses, one at a time. When receiving the fifth Kiss, half the students were told, “Here is your next chocolate.” Those participants didn’t know this was their last option. Was it the best? 22% said yes. The other half of the students were told, “Here is your last chocolate.” Was it the best one? A whopping 64% gave it a thumbs up. Those who were sure they were eating the final chocolate were sure it was the best.

What’s going on here? Human beings prefer happy endings. More specifically, people hunger for endings in which a significant journey has been completed, a serious challenge has been overcome or a profound lesson learned.

Whatever bad news has been confronted along the way is worth facing. We can make it through the wilderness as long as we know The Promised Land awaits.

When this formula is disturbed–when the possibility of hope vanishes–people feel jarred.

According to Ernest Hemmingway in his masterpiece, “A Farewell to Arms”, life will break your heart. That’s the bad news. And there is no good news that can tie everything up with a bow.

Let’s examine the last lines of another masterpiece, The Bible. “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen, Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20-21)

The bad news according to Scripture is that you and I are far more broken and self-deceived than we can possibly imagine.

The good news is that we are more loved than we have ever dared to dream. If we take the bad news but then believe that the Grace of God is the final word, we can make it through the wilderness.

Even the one we are in right now.


Ron Naylor, Chaplain