Now and then, particularly when there is so much going on around us, we take stock of who we are. We try to imagine how we can improve not only our lives but our wider world. How we can be good.
But what does it mean to be good? Scientists say we’re all born with some innate sense of morality and fairness, which makes us sensitive to the distress of others. But we certainly don’t all see eye-to-eye on the big stuff.
Do unto others …
Treat others as you expect to be treated, right? But who are these other people?
One glance at social media, for example, and we see people are good to those in their circles and to people they view as being like them, but not so good to people from different groups.
Are we good if we’re sweet to friends but rude to strangers? Are we good if we frequently give money to family but never to charities or the homeless?
Philosophers say good people are good to everyone — to family and strangers, to people in their group and those outside of it. Good people are particularly good to the underprivileged.
Philosophers tell us any self-improvement requires self-reflection.
Why do we love what we love or hate what we hate? Look at good things we’ve done and bad. Is there enough consideration given to those subjects, or are we falling into groupthink because it’s easier?
Busy lives offer little time to dissect issues, and I would think that creates the perfect conditions for distancing ourselves from our true nature — from that innate sense of morality and fairness we had in spades.
While writing this, I reflected on when I last made someone feel uncomfortable with something I did or said. My first reaction was, No way, I would never. But on deeper reflection … I did. I’m sure.
So, I resolve to be good to myself and to others. As such, introspection must be a lifelong, constant exercise in self-awareness.
The good people we hear about and admire — human-right advocates, animal activists, the selfish neighbor — have done just that. They’d sparked or created or contributed to something good for themselves and the rest of us.