Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh my goodness


I started thinking last night about whether or not I am a good person. I mean, I want to believe I am a good person, but how do you measure such things? Because it seems human nature to want to believe you are a good person. I imagine even Hitler thought he was a good person.

But history tells us otherwise.

I know that ‘good’ is a moral term. I am not a religious person, so I cannot measure my goodness in the number of times I go to church or pray. Though I personally do not think those things define you as a good person. Proclaiming yourself a good person does not make you one.

I wish I could measure my goodness in the number of friends I have…or the good friends I have. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who has forged a great deal of lasting friendships in my life. So that adds to my insecurity about what kind of person I am. But whether they knew it or not, I cherished the friends I had. Then again, if I was a good person, they would have known I cherished them.

As you age, judging who is a good person becomes more difficult. It does seem easier to judge who is not a good person though. Time unfortunately has taught me to assume the worst about a person so as not to be surprised. Assuming that most people are not good makes it easier to cope when we discover that a beloved leader of our community is exposed by scandal or the quiet neighbor is a mass murderer.

I suppose goodness can be measured by good deeds. However, not all of us can discover miracle cures or save the world. I try to treat people with dignity. I say, “Thank you” and “you’re welcome,” “please,” and “excuse me.” I buy Girl Scout cookies and donate my money at the check out stand for various foundations. I don’t litter, I recycle and I use public transit. But will the little things save my soul?

It is in the quiet times in the middle of the night that my doubts are the worst. I stare at myself through the judgmental eyes of others and cower in my lack of goodness. The fingers point and remind me of things I don’t do:

“You don’t volunteer your time.”
“You don’t call your mother.”
“You don’t give enough to charity.”
“You haven’t sacrificed enough.”
“You don’t work hard enough.”
“You aren’t thoughtful enough.”

SHUT UP VOICES!

“You don’t appreciate the voices in your head enough.”

It is hard to reason with voices in your head.

Eventually I take comfort that I at least know good people. I know my wife is a good person. I know her character. I know that she is a wonderful teacher who actually cares about her students when others burn out and go through the moves. I see her always trying to do the right thing even when it is not the easy thing. I see her give of herself. So it is easy for me to see that she is a good person.

So maybe since she is a good person and loves me, then I am sort of a good person. At least she makes me a better person.
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