Goodness

Goodness is a rather underrated idea. Like our health, it is something we tend to take for granted, until we lose it, or have to try living without it. It is much maligned, and sometimes reported not to exist. Anti-heroes bring in more money at the box office these days than white hat heroes. I’m not sure we even believe in white hats anymore. We identify with the less than perfect rogues a bit more than with the defenders of truth and justice. We’ve grown weary of seeing those who supposedly promote Truth and Justice act like overgrown children. Real goodness seems like an unattainable pipe dream. Why bother anyway? Don’t nice guys finish last?

Somebody has to bother. Even if it does mean finishing last. What kind of world do we want our next generation to be raised in? Do we want to tell them not to bother? That it’s too hard? Should we tell them that the world is hard, and they need to be just as hard to survive?

What would Fred Rogers do? Mr. Rogers should be canonized as a saint. I don’t care what religion does it. It’s not about religion. It’s about goodness. He grew up with a new technology entering his household, and he wasn’t happy with what it brought. Instead of ranting and protesting, he decided to offer something positive to the new medium. He told the children that they were special and they were loved. He told them they had value. He addressed the problems they might face in their everyday lives in a positive way. He gave them the subtle ammunition needed to fight back against the hardness. The Taoists would say that the soft overcomes the hard. Every time he put on his sweater, he was fighting a war of the heart with soft words and friendly smiles. A look into his private life revealed that he was still Mr.Rogers even off the set. There were no dirty secrets hidden out of view. Mr. Rogers was a white hat hero. They do exist.

So what does it take to become one? As with most things in life, that’s easier said than done. First, you need to decide that it’s a worthwhile thing to be. As I mentioned above, these days it’s practically fashionable to devalue goodness. Who even wants to be called a goody-two-shoes? Or a fluffy white-lighter? No, it’s not fashionable at all. The cool kids are out having fun being jerks and even getting praised for it, usually by other jerks. They even tell each other that being a jerk is a good thing because it teaches people a lesson. Usually the lesson involves how to be a better jerk.

Once upon a time, I was an active member of a forum. It wasn’t even a pagan forum. The general culture was one of jerkitude. Newcomers were interrogated by seasoned veterans. Any weakness displayed was subject for further attack. Only those who could get past the hazing stuck around in the community. The veterans thought it was a good thing to drive away those who were not “mature” enough to be associated with them. They treated new people like unwanted trash, not like potentially valuable contributors. No one was willing to take new people by the hand and help them. I eventually left that community, not because I couldn’t handle the hazing. Quite frankly, my net-fu is strong. No, I left because I realized that I was starting to become one of the jerks. I could smell blood in the water from a mile away. Simply being in that environment was changing me and not for the better. I wanted to be a good person, but I couldn’t do it as long as I stayed there. It really doesn’t matter what forum this was, because I’ve seen the same story repeated all over the internet, in many different types of communities. Fighting with the jerks is not the answer. I’ve tried that. I turned into one of them.

WWFRD? He followed the idea of doing good things, and continuing to do them, over and over. He did them consistently and repeatedly, like water wearing away a stone. None of those things individually amounted to much, but over the years, his cumulative efforts meant a lot to children who needed to hear his message, that they were loved, and they were worthy of love. If you truly have a sense of your value, you don’t need to go all “special snowflake” and brag about it. The “special snowflakes” actually need more love, not less. Even the jerks need love. They need to be told that they’re strong on the inside too, like the little boy mentioned in the Esquire article linked above.

There is a better way of talking to people. I’d like to learn about what that way is. I’ve gotten it wrong many times. I’d like to wear a white hat too. I’m still working on it. Changing your ways doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent effort.

If you have more ideas about what being a good person means, please do post them in the comments.

Edit: Fixed the article link.

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6 thoughts on “Goodness

  1. Shine says:

    I take my ideas of what makes a good person from Kemetic and Hindu literature. To be frank, though, it’s hard to accept, because both cultures see goodness in modest, kind, and helpful actions. In a culture where the bad-ass movie star is highly valued, such ideas don’t go down easy.

    From the literature, we also see that goodness means not being greedy or selfish. It means reciprocating. It even means giving way more than you take on occasion. It means piety toward the gods. It means not stealing or taking what was not freely given. It means watching your words to others and yourself.

    All of this is an uphill battle because–and I’m ashamed to admit this–sometimes the biting words jerks aim at their victims are. . . well, kind of funny. Not in a, “ha-ha, the person on the receiving end is suffering” way. More like, “ha-ha, that was a pretty good joke.” Yuck. I feel dirty just thinking about it.

    • shezep says:

      Oh yeah, I know about those jokes. I often pull my fingers off the keys so I don’t type them myself. It’s one thing to be funny, it’s something entirely different to hurt someone over it. I don’t actually want to hurt anyone. Yes, my brain does go there, but my typing fingers don’t have to follow. The joke usually isn’t worth the price.

  2. I’ve seen the exact same behavior on 99% of the forums I’ve been on. Someday someone will do a sociological study of online forum behavior and why it brings out the meanie in people from all walks of life with all sorts of interests.

    • shezep says:

      I’d like to see a study on those other 1%. What are they doing right to effectively discourage that behavior? How do you create a culture of civility?

  3. Thanks for this. Sometimes it feels very defeating to be trying to raise a child in this atmosphere. Excellent post for G.

    • shezep says:

      Thanks šŸ™‚

      I have a child of my own. I also look at the newcomers to various communities as essentially being the next generation of those communities. They ought to be treated with the same patience that we would show our children.

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