Most of us like the idea of being good, and since it can mean different things to each one of us, I’d like to explore this topic a little deeper.
As a little girl, being “good” meant obeying my parents, doing well in school and feeling good when someone told my mother, “She’s a good little girl.”
As we grow older, how to be good is generally associated with giving to others, whether it’s a listening ear, helping someone in need, or volunteering our time for what we perceive to be a “good” cause.
I don’t know if you’ve read the book, How to be Good, by Nick Hornby, but I highly recommend it. Not only is the author male, but his protagonist is a mother, wife and doctor, and Hornby captures the true essence of what it’s like to be a wife living with a grumpy, rude, negative husband, who writes a grumpy, rude, negative newspaper column about things that irritate him in his world
Wanting to file for divorce, something strange happens.Rather than trusting his wife, the Doctor, to heal his back aches and headaches, he finds a quack to heal him. His name is DJ Goodnews, and with his hot hands, he not only cures David’s aches and pains, but transforms him into a good man.
Since David is no longer the same man, and thus can no longer write negative columns, he wants to change his family, including his two kids, aged eight and ten, and forces them to give away half their toys, and one of their computers. Together with DJ Goodnews, who moves in with them, David starts an “adopt a homeless teenager into your home,” neighborhood program.
Being good, is taken to the other extreme, and he shows the consequences of what being too good can do to a family.
It’s interesting to think that there are limits on being good. What’s your opinion?
I shall write mine in the comments section,
Fascinating book… I wonder what happens in the end if he takes his goodness to extremes?
At first I was going to say that taking anything, including goodness, to extremes is not good. But then I thought of people who have given up their jobs and possessions to go out and do good in the world.
You and I might think this extreme – but it obviously brings joy to others (even if it may cause hurt to their immediate families).
So, I'm going to have to say that this is an interesting question – and that it probably depends on HOW you take the goodness to an extreme as to whether this is a good or bad thing.
As an optimist, I just can't agree that too much goodness is a bad thing.
Balance is the best in this case too.
Altruistic can be selfish.
To give to get fame and glory – you have them a lot in US.
I was brought up as a 'good girl'. I was a terrible teen.
I'm against the whole idea of a 'good girl'. We should all be good. Treat others as you'd like others to treat you…
Miss Footloose says
I read the book a long time ago. Doing good or being good means different things to different people, but what also matters is WHY you try to be good, what your motivations are.
When a person changes his behavior, for whatever reasons, it changes the dynamics in his relationships, and, like in the book, can cause havoc even if the motivations are good.
Being good is, well, good, but it does not mean that you shouldn't use your common sense about what works and what does not work.
I remember a story about an African village where women had to make an hour trek back and forth every day to fetch their water. Then "good people" built a water well right in the middle of the village. What happened? It broke down the social life of the women, who used to spend the walking time together talking and gossiping. The adjustments were massive, and not all good.
If I tell you, then you won't want to read the book. I absolutely LOVE Hornby's writing. To be honest, I listened to it on CD while driving through the New Mexico desert, and the narrator, actress jenny Sterlin, is absolutely brilliant. I forgot I was driving, which is probably why my Kia Rio almost blew off the road.
You're probably right. Balance is always the right choice, as with anything else in life.
So good of you to bring the story up about the African village. That does put things into perspective.
I haven't read the book, but it sounds to me like the peril lies in forcing others to agree with our opinion of how to be good. It is hard to think that too much good can be a bad thing, but I guess, like so many things, it requires balance.
So good to hear your voice again! Pam
Just wanted to tell you that the model in my post is American.
I haven't read the book, but I don't feel inclined to do so.
I agree with others about the importance of the motivation, and whether individual "goodness" can actually hurt people. It is a matter of the context in which the goodness is done, I guess.
Lady Fi asked me for my opinion about whether one can be TOO GOOD.
I had to think about it for a while and came up with one aspect. There's a difference between being TOO GENEROUS and TOO GOOD. I think in the case of Hornby's story, he was too generous to others, which did have an effect on his family and their finances. I can see giving all of your TIME in say, a third world country, if you have no family ties "at home." However, as Miss Footloose pointed out, what we perceive as good, may not be a good idea for the locals. In other words what we think is good, may not necessarily be for the "good" of the local community.
Ballerina Girl says
I am repeating what others have already said, but I feel also that balance is the key.
I have not read the book, but from your description, I can imagine that his family felt cheated of his goodness when he started to treat everyone else so nice. They probably resented his "good"ness.
I also think that good is individual. What happens sometimes, is when people change "for the good", they may forget to include those that have been hurt by their non-good self. They expect that their new found goodness should just make everyone feel all better. It would be a big adjustment I imagine!
What we all perceive is good is relative…for me, I trust my instincts to do what is "good" and "right". I hope that I can teach my children to think for themselves and uphold a self standard of what is "good", "right" and "wrong"
Robert the Skeptic says
I see a distinction between "doing" good and "being" good. The first coming from a sense of empathy for others, the second coming from one's personal ethics.
One can either become altruistic and give one's time and/or money, or goodness can be a set of values in living one's life. When opportunity arises, people step up to the plate and do whatever is required to benefit others.
Over my lifetime I have had many people help me in various ways. Often it was not practical nor necessary to pay them back directly. Instead, recognizing that good things are handed down and passed along, I would do the same and help people I was in a position to help. What goes around, comes around, so to speak.
I think being good or doing good should be done in the right spirit–not with the prospect
of getting something back in return.
My life is very good right now,
My brother Michael, on the other hand–along with his son, Brad– is facing a foreclosure deadline of Dec. 17th. How dreadful to be homeless before Christmas–or any time, for that matter.
Knowing their stress of eventual homelessness, I sent them part of my IRA.
I can only pray that their future will brighten.