Are you a good person?

November 07 2015

Are you a good person? By what definition? Why does it matter?

When was the last time you've questioned the quality of your own character? I could be wrong, but I think a majority of people in the world would like to think of themselves as good people, and I am almost certain that 100% of parents feel it is important that the children they raise grow up to be good people. So why are there so many rotten things happening in the world?

I've always thought of myself as a good person, but increasingly, especially at work, I find myself dealing with irate, rude people with a sense of entitlement and an air of disconnect with the real world. (For reference, I work at a dental practice in the Financial District of NYC) Also, people who value designer bags over having a full set of teeth in their heads. That aside, I bet these people would think of themselves as good people too.

Are you good, even if it's selectively? Do you only remember the times you harbored honorable feelings in your heart for everyone? Have you omitted from your memory, for convenience, for moral survival, the times you pretended to be asleep when you spotted the 10 months pregnant woman on the crowded train so you wouldn't have to offer your seat? So that you could keep sleeping until your stop? Did you decide that that doesn't make you a bad person because of all the times you told the cashiers they gave you too much change? And gave them back the extra $10 they accidentally gave you, despite being broke as hell? Are you not good because the thought of just shutting up and keeping it played in your head for a full five seconds? Do you find yourself rationalizing and justifying your behavior for a better night's sleep?

If the percentage of times you do the right thing is higher than the times you don't, does THAT make you a good person? Maybe the ability to feel guilt and remorse makes you good. Maybe we are conditioned to feel empathy only for those who are most like us, which is why the outrageous, increasingly common (and in many cases legal, by way of the justice system) brutalizing and killing of Blacks in America persists and most of those who are not Black in America are seemingly unfazed.

And maybe that's why so many rotten things are happening. We don't stop enough to think about our actions, words and thoughts, and we especially don't consider our inactions.

While I don't have any profound answers about the importance of goodness, I hope you find value in the question. Being good doesn't mean you need to be mindlessly nice or be someone who doesn't "rock the boat". In fact, you'll find that in being good, you may have to stand up for a cause and to speak up against tyranny sometimes. Being good matters. Not because you love God or fear hell. Not because you're afraid of disappointing your parents. It matters because it is the most peaceful way to live.

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Brooklyn, New York

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