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.”


“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.


Anonymous said...

Not to make light of your dilema, Tim, but the love of a good woman only indicates that you have the potential for goodness...or a rocking country song.

Hayden said...

I think the people that are drawn to us IS some kind of indicator. If I didn't believe that, I'd go nuts wondering about myself. But I know that my friends are good people, and that reassures me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hayden that the type of people that are drawn to us is an indicator to a degree anyway of what kind of person we are.

Your wife sounds like a beautiful lady with a heart of gold. You must be pretty special to have her love.


Steve said...

Take it from the man that people call God!

"You are a good person, you just don't know it!"

That is the beauty of it, you don't know!

Time said...

Kat, I also have thought I had the potential for many things. As for the rockin' country song, well remind me some time to share the country song lyrics a friend of mine started writing in a bar in Reno..."Take the T our of Trust and all you're left with is rust."

Could be Karma, too. These good people could be paying a debt to you from a past life by being your friend :)

Thanks, Tess is a wonderful person.

I thought I was god this week? Oh well, thanks though. :)

Isabella said...

That is the cutest photo Tim. I've read a lot of your posts and I think you sound like a man with a good heart and a loving soul.

BlazngScarlet said...

What DOES constitute being a "good" person anyway?
Hmmmm ......

If your posts are any indication into the deeper recesses of your psyche, then i'd say you're more than just a good person Tim.
You are kind, empathetic, witty and charming. You have a variety of interests, and are not shy about sharing your innermost thoughts.
All "good" qualities to me!

Time said...

Thanks Isabella, But do you think the dress makes my butt look big? :)

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This is one of those topics that can go round and round. What came first? Was the person good and they did good deeds or did an average person do a good deed and become good?

For me, the question has never been whether or not I am a good person, but whether or not I am capable of doing good. Going beyond that is if I am capable of doing good, do I then follow through? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.

I was raised with the dogma that God gave us the gift of free will; that our decision to do good or do bad would ultimately decide our fate in his eyes. To a child this is a deep, profound and unkind backpack to carry around because as a child, we all want to do bad things at least once just to see what it feels like. It is part of learning and life is nothing without being able to answer the question of "Why did you do that?" with a shrug and an emphatic and honest, "I don't know." I good? I don't know.

Lights in the wake said...

It's all relative Tim. I've seen essays making pretty persuasive arguments that Mother Theresa was not all that good. The thing you should be trying to determine is not how many friends you've made but how many enemies. Then figure out if the enemies are good people. If they are not you probably are.

Time said...

Miss Bliss,
Sometimes bad can be good. That's the irony of it all.

I never trusted Mother Theresa. She had those shifty eyes. And as far as I am concerned, although I wouldn't say I've had lots of enemies, the ones I have had were nasty. So I guess that makes me less nasty. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You seem to always fall into the "voice of good reason..."

Be well, valiant Tim.

Time said...

Thanks Anon. And I suppose my photo does make me look a bit like Prince Valiant :)