Section 1: FOCUSING ON GOODNESS
LIFE’S BIG THREE
Your Thoughts ▪ Your Words ▪ Your Deeds
There are a lot of things in life that we can’t control. On the other hand, there are important things that we can control, but often fail to work at improving them as we should. This lesson reminds us of three of the most important “factors” in shaping our lives—our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. It will take some insightful work on your part, but virtually everyone needs to improve their management of these three things.
The thought manifests as the word.
The word manifests as the deed.
The deed develops into habit.
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care.
And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.
Life Management: Your Most Important Task
When we are youngsters, our parents provide the rules and make many of our choices for us. But somewhere along the way…typically when we are around 14, 15, or 16-years-old…we begin to “take the driver’s seat” and start making many of the choices that define our lives. Not many years after this, we take full control, and how our life works out from that point on is left primarily to us and the choices we make.
Some of our choices are very big ones—the career or role we choose, who we marry, and how we take care of ourselves and our bodies are all examples of important choices that are ours to make. In addition, we have to make hundreds of smaller choices; the clothes we wear, the way we conduct ourselves around others, and how we spend our free time are but a few examples. The point is this…you are in charge of your life, and you manage your life through the choices, large or small, that you make each day.
Never under estimate the importance of your life management responsibilities. How well you do in performing them determines what you ultimately accomplish with your life. Therefore, it’s not only helpful, but very important, to have some standard for making choices—a code of conduct, if you will, to help guide you in the decisions you make.
The dictionary defines code of conduct as a “rule of behavior” that guides the way we conduct ourselves. Applied to our choices, such rules guide our decision-making and help us to make better choices as we manage our lives. We are suggesting that a code of conduct focused on goodness can help us do exactly that.
A Goodness Code of Conduct
Granted, most of us have goals that influence our choice-making. It could be a career or monetary goal that influences the majority of the choices you make. It could be a home-and-family objective that moves you toward that inclusive feeling that family circumstances might provide. It could even be something like a painting you want to complete, a book you want to write, or even that record-breaking fish you want to catch. There are many goals or objectives like these that people adopt which, in turn, greatly influence the choices they make.
No question, personal goals are important, and our focus on them can provide the motivation that leads to meaningful accomplishments. But we’re not talking about goals or objectives here. We’re talking about a code of conduct…an internal sense of direction that helps us be a better person, make better choices, and do better things. We’re talking about an influence that motivates us to help others and, in some cases, to help them accomplish their goals whether we accomplish ours or not.
We’re suggesting that you adopt goodness as your code of conduct and allow it to influence your thoughts, your words, and your deeds. We’re suggesting that, to the extent possible, you determine if your thoughts, words, and deeds are helpful and if you are using your life, or a significant part of it, to help other people in some way. We’re suggesting that you turn down the focus on yourself and turn up the focus on how what you say and what you do is helping others have better and more enjoyable lives.
Yes, it’s great to have fun and enjoy life. But in doing so, if we overlook the need for goodness and the role it plays in helping us create and maintain a meaningful life, at some point we are likely to be disappointed with “all the fun” we had. Without goodness and a willingness to make it an important part of our life, things can ultimately work out to be disappointing indeed.
Goodness comes from inside of you.
It is your energy and make up.
When given away, it leads to greatness and success.
A Perspective about Goodness
Defining goodness and describing how it works in our lives is no simple task. In this case, I wanted to offer a straightforward perspective about goodness…one that you can “road test” as you work to make better choices in your life. These are my views and beliefs…you will have to decide if these are your views and beliefs as well. Here are five points that have been helpful to me as I worked to understand goodness and the role it plays in our lives:
We are all capable of showing love and concern for others.
No matter who we are or what we have done…good, bad, or indifferent…we all have feelings of love or concern for others. Yes, we help or hinder these feelings through the choices we make, but these feelings are “in residence” in everyone regardless of our past or present circumstances. The extent to which others witness or experience this love and concern does not depend on its existence, but rather on the choices we make to do something with it.
Good choices contain both logic and love.
It’s been said that we think too much and feel too little. In other words, we use our heads too much and our hearts too little. Yes, logic comes from our heads, but we must remember that love comes from our hearts…and that both are fundamentally important as we make the choices that, in effect, manage our lives. A choice made strictly based on logic with no concern for others seldom produces a positive result.
Goodness is supported by spiritually-motivated feelings within us.
It’s not a stretch for me to believe that our feelings of love and concern are really God’s Spirit at work within us and through us in the world. In other words, we are here to take care of each other, and our feelings of love and concern are, in effect, God’s Spirit of Goodness motivating us to do so.
You can’t earn it or buy it.
There is nothing special you have to do to have the Spirit of Goodness residing in you. It’s already there with you…no matter what. But to activate it and have it enhance your life as well as the lives of others, you do have to make good choices, choices that allow you to help others and the world in some way.
We’re here for a reason.
Lastly, one other point ties all of this together for me. It is this: Each of us has special interests, skills, and motivations that point us to our intended purpose or “calling” in life. But much more than that, I can readily see that this is the way God works in the world: through the goodness of individuals like you and me. It is through doctors and nurses that people are healed; it is through caring neighbors that the elderly neighbors are cared for; it is through a concerned citizen that the homeless man receives a hot meal. In each case, it is God’s Spirit of Goodness working through individuals like you and me to achieve important and helpful things.
As I’ve researched the topic of goodness over the years, I’ve discovered quotes and observations that “spoke to me” and gave meaning to what I was trying to write. Such is the case with the quote below as it summarizes in a few words what I have tried to present in the points outlined above.
Only when goodness awakens within,
will one’s personality and actions gain beauty and strength.
Amma grew up in India and became known as Amma, the Mother of All. “Motherhood, in its ultimate sense,” she explains, “is love, compassion and selflessness. It lies in totally giving one’s self to others.” So, as you and I work to better understand goodness and how it works in our lives, let’s reflect on her words. They infer that goodness is a special ingredient within us that gives what we think, what we say, and what we do “beauty and strength.” As she points out, our personality and our actions are improved when we awaken the goodness within us. May you and I come to understand this more fully and be quick to consider goodness in the choices we make.
Road Testing Your Goodness
As mentioned previously, you can “road test” goodness and determine for yourself if increasing the level of goodness you display will help you live a better and more meaningful life. If you decide to test it out, it’s helpful, as this lesson infers, to think about goodness in three basic areas of your life: the goodness in your thoughts, the goodness in your words, and the goodness in your deeds.
I was in darkness, but I took three steps and found myself in paradise.
The first step was a good thought,
the second, a good word;
and the third, a good deed.
The more goodness you incorporate into your thoughts, the better your attitude toward others will be. The more goodness reflected in your words, the more enjoyable your communications and the better your relationships with others will be. And, of course, the more goodness you practice in your deeds, the more you will feel that your life counts for something and that you have actually made a difference in someone else’s life.
Goodness in your thoughts...
We can find it next to impossible to control our thoughts. For the most part, they just happen. And, we can’t simply strain a little and change a bad thought into a good one. It’s not that easy. So, as you work on including more goodness in your thoughts, don’t expect to change your thinking outright. Instead, work on introducing more good thoughts into your thinking. For example, instead of thinking about why you “dislike Mary” so much, think about one good quality she has or one good thing she has done. The more you look for good things in others and think good things about them, the better your thinking will become.
Goodness in your words…
You’ll have to agree that it is much easier to say something nice or positive than otherwise. So, in your efforts to introduce more goodness into your words, simply look for more opportunities to compliment people. It has to be sincere, but an unexpected compliment makes both the recipient and you feel good. You can even make the grocery sacker feel special by simply saying, “Thanks very much, you did a great job sacking my groceries.” The other “word rule” is to refrain from saying anything if you don’t have something good or positive to say. As my wonderful grandmother told me many times, “Michael, if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.” This applies to every text message you and I think about sending as well.
Goodness in your deeds…
Our typical reaction when we become aware of someone in need is to leave such circumstances to someone else to handle. “It’s not my responsibility!” is the rather poor reasoning that frequently steers us around such moments in our lives. But, wait a minute…this is why you are here…to use your life to help others in your own special way. One of the greatest feelings and experiences you will ever have is to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. When you allow the Spirit of Goodness to work through you in this way, I can promise you that it will result in a feeling that you will never forget.
I slept and dreamed that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was duty.
I acted and behold, duty was joy.
One Last Point
As the quote above conveys, some action is required on our part for goodness to actually make its way into this world and into the lives of others. We can think good thoughts, and that’s always important, but until we actually do or say something good that “touches” another life, our good thought stays at home within us.
The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.
Give one example of when goodness guided you to do something
helpful for another person. How did you feel after you had helped in this way?
To what extent do you feel or believe that your interest, skills, and motivations
are directing you to your “intended purpose” in life?
What are a few things you could do to increase the level of goodness
coming from your life?