What Happens to Bad People When They Die?

by Kelvin Chin, Life After Life Expert

I’m often asked this question. But, in my opinion, it’s the wrong question. The more appropriate question is: “What happens to bad people when they’re alive?”

Let me explain what I mean by this.

When people are asking what happens to bad people when they die, they are usually interested in seeing if I think punishment or some sort of retribution or after-death consequences are “experienced” or “delivered” to that person by some other entity, force, or God. Often it’s the idea of “judgment” that they are thinking about.

You may have seen my views about punishment in other blogs. But I will give you my version here, and then discuss what I referred to above as “the more appropriate question to ask.”

Punishment to Change Behavior

First of all, most people when they ask the above question presume that punishment is somehow a good way to change behavior. That, whether we’re talking about during life or after death, either when our parents punished us or the criminal justice system punished that “bad guy” — or if God punished “bad people” after they died — it was necessary and a good way to change our behavior, to make it better. 

However, the premise that punishment is somehow a good thing, an effective method, is not based on sociological or psychological fact. It has been factually and scientifically proven many times in studies by experts in those fields that punishment does not change behavior in a positive way. Punishing people does not make them a better person. It may make them obedient, compliant and fearful, but that does not make them a better functioning, socially well-adjusted, thoughtful and caring, wiser human being who makes better choices.

I was at a lecture given by the Los Angeles County District Attorney who said the recidivism rate (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior) is somewhere in the 60-80% range nationally — for example, in Los Angeles 64% of those who’ve been sent to jail, then released, are back in jail within 6 months, and fully one-third of those are back in jail within only 3 weeks of being released! So she pointed out, clearly the punishment of merely sending people to jail is not having a positive effect on changing their behavior.

Now, is there a reason to have jails and prisons that may not be punishment related? I leave that to other experts to ponder and discuss. However, I could see an argument for separating certain individuals who choose to harm others, so perhaps for safety reasons, society may decide to separate them from the masses and put them in jail or prison. But that’s a very different reason than punishing and expecting them to change their behavior positively as a result of the incarceration. 

Punishment or Judgment in the Afterlife

And as far as the afterlife is concerned, if there is a God (or gods) or souls who are entrusted with the judgment of those who die, one would assume that if there is such a role, they would be at least as smart as all of the psychologists and sociologists who have done these many hundreds — perhaps thousands — of studies indicating that punishment does not create positive behavioral change. And if those in the “Afterlife judgment role” are simply doing this because they like to inflict punishment, then they are not the type of entities I would look up to or respect — never mind “worship.” In fact, “enjoying the infliction of unhappiness on another” is my definition of cruelty, which you can read about in my other blogs. And, who would want to “worship” a cruel entity?

If there is a God, don’t most people think of him or her as omniscient or at the very least — “very smart”? And if that’s the case, why would a smart person want to even be involved with judging others? Wouldn’t a smart person give those others the freedom to think however they want, to act however they want? Rather than be a puppeteer controlling those people all the time? Being a puppeteer would seem boring to me. And, moreover, an indication of a “small mind”…

Just sayin....

So, bottom line, it doesn’t make sense to me that there would be any judgment, judgment of our behavior while we have been humans. What purpose would it serve?

Life Review

Now, what I’m talking about is different from what I think does often happen when one dies — some call it a “life review.” For example, many people who have had near-death experiences (NDE’s) have come back and talked about this “life review.” That’s different from the “judgment” concept I discussed above. One may be reviewing one’s life — key points, experiences and relationships in one’s life — but it’s more like reviewing an old photo album, and not so much having some external panel of judges reviewing your life and giving you some sort of “sentence” based upon some sort of “cosmic grading scale.” 

That’s what I’m saying I don’t think happens — that sort of judgment and grading of one’s life by some external group or individual. How one views one’s life and assesses it oneself is a different matter, unique to each of us and how we think and value.

What I’m saying is: there is no “Judgment Day” after we die.

The More Appropriate Question to Ask…

So what’s the more appropriate question?

I think the more appropriate question is: “What happens to bad people when they’re alive?”

Consequences and Life Experience

It’s what I consider the more practical and impactful question. 

Because I think that consequences for any actions are more immediate than we realize. More immediate than most of us are willing to admit.

If we are candid and honest with ourselves, we have all experienced situations where we “knew inside” that something we may have said or done hurt someone whether we intended to or not. There is a consequence to everything, in other words, a reaction to every action. And it’s those consequences that are our metaphoric “friends and teachers” in life...if we choose to pay attention to them.

It’s simply called “life experience.” No fancy term or catchy tag line needed.

“Bad People” — Why Do Bullies “Bully”?

What most people call “bad people” are those who know what they are doing is wrong or hurtful, yet they do it anyway. That is my definition of cruelty. People who do things that are hurtful to others and know they are hurting others and continue to do it anyway. 

Why do they do it? For the same reason we do everything and anything in life — for pleasure, for happiness. 

So, ironically, the people who are engaged in such “bad behavior” do it for the same reason that anyone does anything — the pursuit of happiness. On that level, they are just like any of us.

But understanding that, why do they act in a cruel, hurtful way? 

Because they are unhappy, they are insecure. 

Bullies lack self-confidence. They feel smaller than others, weaker inside than others — even if they’re big physically and even if they are strong physically, they are weak internally. 

So the only way the bullies can feel happier and stronger than others is to make those around them feel more unhappy and more insecure than they (the bullies) feel. And thus — by acting in a cruel, demeaning, pushy way — the bully feels better because he’s made other people around him feel worse than he feels.

Inside the Bully

But, let’s get back to the “bad behavior” and talk about the internal effect of it on the bully. 

Does the bully realize what he or she is doing when they’re doing it? It depends. Sometimes they may if they’re in a more conscious moment, and other times they may not if they’re completely swept away with the actions that they’re engaged in at the time. 

However, I think that almost all minds are conscious and self-aware enough to realize that upon reflection, they are hurting someone. Inside, the person most likely feels inadequate. They may mask it by puffing up their chest, so to speak, and acting in a very authoritative, blustery kind of way, but inside they know how they feel. They would never admit it externally to the world, but internally they know they feel deficient. There is a lack. The yearning to be accepted, to be loved is ever-present, but due to a lack of emotional intelligence they have no idea how to gain that love other than by pushiness, or “ordering others” in order to garner some degree of reverence that is mostly based on fear. This make them feel better as they then feel more important, more secure than the weaker people they’ve now surrounded themselves with.

So, in a sense, the bully is faced all the time with their own weakness, their own inadequacy, whenever they act in a bullying, cruel way towards others. That’s what I mean by the effect or the reaction to their action is more immediate than we may realize. They suffer immediately. And constantly. The more conscious the bully is, the more they suffer. The more frequently.

So in that way, if you want to call it consequence or punishment or simply the effect of their actions, the bully experiences all of that more immediately the more conscious they are.

And the more conscious they are, the less likely they will be to continue to inflict that sort of suffering on themselves. They will look for an alternative. They may actually realize that strengthening themselves “from the inside out” is a more effective way to pursue happiness.

They may begin to realize that surrounding themselves with weaker people than they are is not so great a “universe” to live in. That surrounding oneself with slaves who are weaker than you — who simply do your bidding — may be fun at first, but gets pretty boring fast. It’s not a long-term solution — for even the bully.

Final Thoughts

Now I realize because I’m a realist and a pragmatist that this whole idea we’ve been discussing is very much a long term proposition for most bullies to embrace. Most bullies will choose the short-term fix. They will choose to be cruel and push weaker people around to make those people even weaker so that the bully feels stronger and better inside about himself. But even that feeling of security is only temporary for the bully.

So you see, that’s what I meant when I said the more appropriate question is “How does the bad person live their life now”? 

Because I think the answer is — the bully does not live his life so well. Not very happily. And at an expense — by hurting others in order to be happy — which may be too great an expense for even the bully over time.


Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 40 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org or www.TurningWithin.org.