The phrase good is misused in our society. Good, like its peer Decent, is used to connote acceptable. Something that is good is not truly satisfying. It is merely passable. Being a good person means doing the bare minimum. A good man does what he should but he hasn’t done enough to be a great man. In our hyperbolic world, greatness is the true goal.
There’s an irony in this. Many of us fall short of goodness as we think we’re en route to greatness. We’re convinced we’re already there since hey! We don’t murder anybody regularly. Most of us don’t steal and if we do we can justify it saying we’re in the right since the other guy doesn’t deserve it. Truly most of us think that as long as we’re nonviolent, we’re in the clear as far as goodness goes.
I don’t believe that.
I’m a staunch moralist, to be clear. As I’m not a particular churchgoer, I’m an odd choice for moralism though I maintain a deep and abiding love of most truly Christian ideas as well as the tenets of many other world faiths. My belief in morality stems less from the supernatural and more from the observable in society. I believe in the value of treating everybody with the utmost respect for the simple reason that what comes after might not be certain but what comes now is.
I believe that I must strive never to offend another person unless they transgress verbally in such a manner I cannot agree and must speak out. I believe in the firmness of my word, swearing only to ever follow through on my promises and should I fail to truly apologize. I believe in fighting for the rights of others as I have been denied mine at one time. I believe in a strong work ethic. I believe in never letting a conflict go unresolved, doing all I can to fix it. I believe in the best of all I meet, even my opponents.
What saddens me is how often I fail to meet my own standards. I am a perfectionist with a brain that refuses to allow it. Things get jumbled and I fail. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. I create chaos unintentionally. In the worst moments, I do allow my selfishness to seep in and I act to cause harm. Simply following my own self interest leads to this.
And thus I must reconcile the twin feelings of guilt and the sense I hadn’t intended this outcome or I didn’t feel I was wrong. In the first. I can achieve reconciliation, though it usually hurts. Tears are inevitable. I will be unable to be ok with what I’ve done. In the second I will be angry until it dissipates or I shift to guilt. Either way it hurts.
I am a moralist incapable of living up to his ideas. Some would argue this makes me a hypocrite. I refuse to deny it for the truth is I know this to be so. These aren’t ideas I believe are possible. They are the ideals I chase in the hopes I can live up to them. The things that force me to strive ever onward to be the best man possible. I want to be good.
Perhaps that is the true reward upon death. When we die, we leave a legacy, a small one for most but a small one that inspires others. I’m not destined to write works that will haunt libraries even once, a fact I’m slowly accepting. For that reason I want my legacy to be this: that I was indeed a good man. That I fought for the right things. That I was there for others. That I was known for my caring heart.
If that is my legacy, then I have lived my life right. Until then, I must never stop striving towards that beautiful goal.