What does it mean to be a good person? I’m on vacation for a couple of weeks, so instead of updating and explaining the news, I’m going to wax philosophical. Today’s topic: How do I judge goodness in myself and others?
The initial question — it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway because I may or may not be a good person — is what does goodness mean? Does it mean being nice or helpful to others? Does it mean being adept at something? Or does it mean being delicious?
It could be any of those things, but let’s rule out deliciousness for the sake of this discussion. None of us want to be discussed on Top Chef, so let’s not think about it.
Can you be good at something and yet be a bad person? Can you be a nice person and yet be completely inept?
Yes, yes, yes. This is a complex subject, and, it could be argued, makes you a bad, self-centered person if you’re thinking about it.
You good people out there who read this column regularly (and are, therefore, good) will note that the issues here are similar to last week’s intelligence conundrum. If you think you’re good, you’re a narcissistic, sanctimonious and probably-hypocritical person unless you realize your badness and thus feel good which makes you bad and so on….
Interestingly, if you Google “What makes you a good person?” you’ll get 7,420,000,000 results. It seems I’m not the only person struggling with this issue. What exactly is a good person?
For example, are you good or bad if you empathize with Ra’s Al Ghul and Thanos? All those guys want to do is end misery and save the planet or universe by wiping out a large portion of the population. It’s a noble mission that involves killing lots of people – like a whole lot of wars.
I’m going to come down on the side of not killing people because that sounds bad and I wouldn’t be very good at it. So let’s for the sake of argument assume that good people are nice and helpful to others. How do you know you’re being helpful? We badly need concrete tests for this quality of humanity. So here are a few things to consider:
Trustworthiness. If you want to be good, you can’t be relied on.
Fairness. Clearly, you can’t be fair and good at the same time. Goodness requires an inflexible mind set and determination to achieve one’s good goals no matter what. Consider: are you good if you mindlessly approve a Supreme Court nominee who disagrees with you? Obviously not.
Flexibility. One must be flexible since one can never be sure one is doing the good, right thing. Listen carefully to every point of view, throw your arms up in frustration, and then take up drinking.
Alternatively, refuse to be flexible in any way. Those people with different points of view will only hold you back.
Caring. Never care. You won’t get anything good done if you care what anyone else is thinking.
Responsibility. Take responsibility for your actions. Then explain how everyone else can help you in your work by making sending money. Be certain to clearly state the spelling of your name for checks and allow the use of credit cards.
Citizenship. Become a citizen of as many countries as possible. You’ll have places to flee when the authorities decide they hate your good works. At least one of those countries should be a confidential banking center that will safeguard your charitable funds.
Appreciation of others. It is good to show appreciation of others whether they be friend or foe. They’ll never know what hit them when you turn on them.
Generosity. Make full use of tax credits.
Next year’s vacation topic: The meaning of life.