Whether you are a religious person or not, most people like to think that they are a good person. There are exceptions, most of whom populate the prison system. But as a general rule, we like to consider ourselves as basically good.
But why do you think you are a good person? Is it because you compare yourself with your peers and you come out looking pretty good? Or is it because your good traits outweigh your bad traits? Or is it just because you want to be a good person?
Late in 2014, I started a “Virtues” chart on myself. I included topics like: Bible, reading, writing, thinking, meditating, praying, no-anger, truth telling, kindness, humility, patience, love, service, and joy. I gave myself one point for doing something each day that fulfilled any of these categories. The first week, I was a disaster. The second week, I moved up a little, but it took me over a month to get out of the single digits. I had to focus on doing these things or I failed to address them.
I started thinking: Gee, I thought I was a pretty good person until I evaluated my actual performance. The truth is that we all think more of ourselves than we probably should. We have a tendency to believe that we are good people since we haven’t robbed or killed anybody recently. The problem is that we all have a tendency to rock along with daily activities, distracted from accomplishing anything outside your work and family zones.
For example, you can lose your patience and temper at work or home without too much difficulty. But you are so busy trying to complete your assignments at work or to run your kids from school to soccer practice, you forget that you were not as good a person as you thought.
I truly believed that I was a really great truth teller. But when I tested myself, allowing a point only if I told the truth all day long, I failed miserably. Without this test, we are like golfers who take “mulligans” and don’t count “wiffs” as strokes. We think that we tell the truth because most of the time we do not lie. But those “white lies” or stretching the truth to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings are still lies.
Another one was “no anger.” I rarely got to check this one. I had no idea how angry I was since I was only angry a few minutes out of a long day. I thought I was right on target: a good person who did not get angry. However, those short bursts of anger were sufficient to keep me from getting any points.
The last category was “joy” which is significantly more than being “happy.” I have not achieved this goal yet. You should know it when you reach joy, but there are just too many things in life that interfere with that ultimate connection. I came closest when I was content with my daily activities and was turning in after a long day. But then my wife would ask me something like, “Did you take the garbage out?” or “Did you know Johnnie got a ‘D” today?” But there is no joy in Mudville – our mighty egos have struck out.
So, do you still think you are a good person?