Did you hear someone tell you that you ‘come from a good place’? What does this phrase mean?
The idiom ‘come from a good place’ means “to be motivated by altruistic or good intentions, even if the consequences or results are undesirable.”
‘Come from a good place’ is an idiom that means “to be motivated by kindness, decency, or good intentions, even if the consequences are unpleasant or undesirable.”
This phrase is used as a verb and has several different forms depending on the context, including:
For example, let’s say that you are a manager at an office, and one of your employees has brought a number of issues to your attention. While you can tell that they are motivated by good intentions, you also recognize that they don’t fully understand the implications of the changes they are proposing for the future of the business.
In this instance, you might say, “I know that these concerns ‘come from a good place,’ but I don’t think that the solutions you are suggesting will solve the root of the problem.”
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when ‘come from a good place’ emerged as a common idiom. Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, however, we can compare the usage of the different verb forms of this phrase starting in the year 1800.
An early appearance of the phrase shows up in Volume 9 of The Pamphleteer from 1817:
“Let the Oriental Visitor, Dr. Wilkins, be asked his opinion on the subject; and, though I well know he differs from me on some points relating to the form of the institution, I know he is too honourable a man not to avow in public what he has distinctly said to me in private; namely, that the very short time in which a large portion of the students now pass through the college at Calcutta is a clear proof that they must have come from a good place of education for the Oriental languages at home.”
We also find the phrase ‘comes from a good place’ in an 1820 publication titled A Treatise on the Free Grace of God by John Forster.
He feels that it is good, that it teaches good, proceeds from good; he loves it, and is thankful for it. To shew his sense that it comes from a good place, he will point towards the Heavens.
If we fast-forward to the 20th century, we find uses of the phrase that are more in line with the contemporary idiomatic meaning. For example, in a story by Flannery O’Connor published in 1971, we find these words:
"Him that knew such as that couldn’t be. Him that had come from a good place. A good place. A place where such as that couldn’t be. His eyes felt strange in their sockets.”
We also find the phrase in a 1965 book by Roy Clinton Cave and Herbert Henry Coulson entitled A Source Book for Medieval Economic History.
"And no one may be a master of this trade of shearer if he has not lived a year and a day in the town, in order that it may be known whether or not he comes from a good place.”
The graph provided by the Google Books Ngram Viewer shows that the usage of the phrase has ebbed and flowed in the last two hundred years. ‘Come from a good place’ seems to have been particularly common in the 1810s, while other verb forms have increasing usage in the 1860s, 1890s, and mid-20th century. All forms of the phrase have significantly increased in usage since about the 1990s and early 2000s.
How would you use 'come from a good place' in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples.
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'come from a good place'? Here are some options:
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