Is it okay to associate with disreputable people?


And it came to pass, as he sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Teacher with the publicans and sinners? But when he heard it, he said, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

Matthew 9:10-13


And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, … Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that even forgiveth sins? And he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Luke 7:37-50


This is the meal equally set—this is the meat for
natural hunger;
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous—I
make appointments with all;
I will not have a single person slighted or left away;
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited;
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited—the venerealee is invited:
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your
If you remember your foolish and outlaw’d deeds, do you think
I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw’d deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the
If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why
I often meet strangers in the street and love them.

Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?

(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a
Or that you are diseas’d, or rheumatic, or a prostitute,
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and
never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)

Walt Whitman, “A Song for Occupations”


Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of
slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas’d

Walt Whitman, “Think of the Soul”




In my senior year in high school, I took an IQ test administered by a graduate student at Boston University. A question on the test, which he administered orally, was why should one not associate with disreputable people? I answered that I did not agree with the premise.

Some fifty years later, I still feel the same way.

I have learned a great deal from, and my life has been enriched by, people of all levels of intelligence, backgrounds, occupations, persuasions, personality types, idiosyncracies, and life situations.

I have given rides and handouts to just released ex-convicts; associated with people whose opinions and/or behavior could be considered immoral, criminal, improper, antisocial, deviant, clueless, or odd by others; have never chosen my friends according to their political or religious views.

The driving force, in my own experience, behind making acquaintances and forming friendships has been: how is that person disposed towards ME? Do they wish to associate and communicate; do they desire or need human contact? Then, I find that it behooves me to respond affirmatively. I am a priori willing to accept anyone as a friend.

I have benefited, immeasurably, from such associations.   These people have taught me so much or, to put it the other way around, I have learned so much from them.

I see no reason to change.

And, I am amazed and gladdened by the innate goodness and sincerity of so many people who are prone to neglect and sometimes scorn or to being rejected by polite society.


Roger W. Smith

   January 2017

3 thoughts on “Is it okay to associate with disreputable people?

  1. Luanne

    I love the sentiment and philosophy behind your actions (and teachings). Maybe there is too much emphasis today on getting “toxic people” out of one’s life; however, it is true that being too affected by people who are harmful to one, even on an emotional level only, is damaging to the individual. So I guess I fall somewhere in between your vision and the current pop psychology one!

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