Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Being Good

Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are with the concept of good? We use the word all the time, we greet people with a "good morning" and end the conversation with "have a good day" or "goodbye". We tell our babies how good they are, or the dog how good he’s been after doing his business outside.

Goodness naturally spills into righteousness. Doing good work becomes doing the right thing. Being responsible is a good thing. We want our children to be good and work hard and be responsible adults. It’s all about being good.

Does anyone teach their children to do bad things? They probably do, but I guess they do it thinking it is the right thing. This is where it gets messy. What is good to someone may not be to someone else. What I may think of as healthy affection towards my baby, might come across as spoiling him to someone who thinks you need to be stern with children so they grow up being humble and do good. This is all tied to being good.

In fact, I am going so far as saying that we have built lives out of our obsession with being and doing good. This obsession at times feels like a prison. Its walls are so thick that we can’t see what’s going on outside. We have barricaded ourselves in our prison cell with what we think is good and sometimes it gets stifling and claustrophobic.

Feelings of unworthiness also can come out of that same prison. When bad things happen or when what you try so hard to achieve does not, then you go into your unworthiness corner. It happened or did not happen because I was not good enough.

Other belief systems that stem from this obsession with goodness include: competitiveness (I have to be even better or I have to be the best), righteousness (X is good, Y is bad), rule of life (if I do good, good will come to me), criticism (not good), perfectionism (not good enough), justice (if you do bad things, you’ll be punished), etc. It seems that everything we’ve been taught has been about being good.

I would not be writing this article, if our belief in goodness was all that we needed to navigate through lives that have been hit hard by loss, and unprecedented bad times. I am reminded of the conversation I had with a previously religious person who believed her father was a saint and had done nothing but good to drop dead just when he retired and finally had some money to live a comfortable life. She was angry at God, the same God who her father had prayed to daily and gone to church for every Sunday. She could not understand or forgive God. Being good had not earned her father any points on earth. So, why bother being good?

It all comes down to choice. If someone told us, “do good only because you want to, not for any other reason” then it wouldn’t become a prison. Better yet, if someone told us, “do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter”, then what would we choose to do? When I tell myself that, I tend to freeze. It is as if, nothing makes sense anymore. And I am reminded that what supposedly made sense, was just what I had believed in, that goodness mattered.

Today, I believe that goodness matters. It matters to me. I don’t try to be good for any reason other than it feels good. When it stops feeling good, when it becomes an obligation, a judgment, a heavy responsibility or burden, is when I stop doing what I believed to be good. It makes sense: the moment it stops feeling good, it isn’t good anymore!

I am learning to navigate the world of shifting realities, endless potentials, and softly held beliefs gingerly and with eyes wide open…

Questions to Ponder:
1) What is one belief that you have held on to most of your life? How did it become yours?
2) How has it served you?
3) Are you willing to give it up? Why?

Take some time to think this over or ponder with a friend. If you feel the need to talk with a spiritual life coach, email or call me and we can discuss what your beliefs mean to you or where you might be feeling stuck.

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