TEACHING OTHERS ABOUT GOODNESS
Passing Along this Life-Defining Practice
As I caught up on the news this morning, a story popped up about a group of teenagers in Philadelphia, PA that attacked a 72-year old man walking down the sidewalk for no reason at all. They hit him with traffic cones…he fell to the ground and subsequently died. A security video captured the scene which showed both boys and girls, most likely 15, 16, 17-years old, participating in the event. The man is now dead and these young lives are ruined…forever.
Clearly, there is a very strong need in this country to teach young people how to make better choices and to live more meaningful lives. The responsibility for this falls squarely on parents first and foremost. And parents need to be supported in this how-to-live-an-effective-life work by teachers and school boards. However, many of our schools seem to focus instead on teaching which gender pronoun is “correct” and to use the term “birthing parent” instead of mother. We need to stop this craziness and refocus our academic efforts on equipping our young people with the value systems that are fundamental to living an effective life.
Obviously, I believe that understanding goodness and the role it potentially plays in our lives should be “at the top of the teaching list”. All of us need to understand goodness and incorporate into our daily living routines. Living with goodness, as we have labeled this project and this website, is what we should be working to achieve. Presented here are some important points a parent or adult might follow in teaching goodness to a young person, another individual or for gaining a better understanding of goodness themselves.
It isn’t how much you do that counts,
but how much you do well,
and how often you decide right.
Before we can teach others about goodness, we have to have a personal understanding of what goodness is. As you may have noted, I have provided this definition in other writings on this site but always with the point that these are my beliefs about goodness, more specifically about God’s spirit and how it works in and through us to help others. You will have to decide if they are your beliefs as well.
Goodness is a combination of a special feeling within us combined with an actual choice to “follow that feeling” and do something that helps another individual in some special way. In other words goodness doesn’t actually happen or exist until we take some action—large or small—to help someone in some way. Good intentions don’t create goodness, but a good choice always does.
Excellence is never an accident.
It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution.
It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
Choice—not chance—determines your destiny,
Three Things to Understand about Goodness
There are three factors that are important in developing a personal perspective about goodness and how it works in our lives. These include 1) the role of the Spirit of Goodness, 2) the power of our personal choices and 3) the way God works in the world. Again, these are my perspectives and beliefs. You will have to determine to what extent they are yours as well.
Spirit of Goodness
I believe, and strongly so, that God’s spirit lives in everyone, yes everyone. We didn’t have to ask for it, we didn’t have to do something special to acquire it, we didn’t have to pre-qualify for it in some way. In my view God’s spirit became a part of our life when we were conceived and remains with us throughout our entire lives…no matter what we say or do.
Although our lives can certainly be enhanced through our religious practices, the delivery of God’s spirit isn't dependent on a church or religious group. It comes to us directly and is with you right now as you read these words. Because God’s spirit motivates us to do good and helpful things, we have chosen to refer to it as the Spirit of Goodness as it will definitely “push us in a good direction” if we pay attention to the signals and internal motivations it provides.
Our Personal Choices
Having researched and written two books about the importance of choices—Good Choices Good Life and Living by Choice—I have become completely convinced of the fundamental importance that our choices play in defining our lives. In fact, our choices are so powerful that they not only are the most important ingredient in defining the life we live but they can even override the influence of the Spirit of Goodness within us. Make no mistake about it, you are in control of your life through the choices you make.
The Way God Helps People
The third factor in understanding the importance of goodness and the choices we make is the way God works in the world. Again, this is my belief…you have to determine yours. For starters, I see absolutely no signs of God working through "lightning bolts” or modern day miracles…it just doesn’t happen. On the other hand, I see thousands and thousands of examples of God working through people to help others in some special way. The doctor who helps us stay well and healthy; the lady at the cleaners who helps us have clean clothes; the financial advisor who helps us plan for the future; the plumber who repairs the leak in the kitchen; the neighbor who looks in on the older couple down the street are all examples of God “at work” in this world. By listening to the Spirit of Goodness within us and making good choices in support of its direction, we, in effect, partner with God to help others have better lives. Our role in “helping God help people” is the basic reason why you and I are here.
It’s so important these days that we pass along these understandings by teaching the basics of goodness to our young people and to others in need of or wanting to gain a beneficial perspective of “life and how it should be lived.” In summary, the Spirt of Goodness lives in each of us, but its reach and impact is subject to the choices we make. When we pay attention to the Spirit of Goodness and make choices that allow us to follow where it is leading us, we are, in effect, helping to carry out God’s work in the world. Nothing is more important than that.
Let’s go back to the story referenced at the top of the page about the group of teenagers who obviously had no concept of goodness and how choices define one’s life. No doubt, the Spirit of Goodness was pushing these young people in totally different directions. But their unwillingness to listen to that spirit combined with probably the worst choice young people could make—to physically harm another individual—an elderly man is dead and their lives are ruined. Don't tell me that "making good choices" is not the most important thing we can do.
By Michael L. Nelson
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