A look at what it means to be a good person, why so many people think it's hard, and what we can do to bring more so-called goodness into our relationships.

“Is it hard to be a good person?”

This question lit a flame within me. Reading over a blog post I stumbled across in my daily search for inspirational words, I stared at the sentence “Being a good person is hard.” I felt something coming alive within me, something raw, intense, and powerful. I wanted to cry, “No!” But I resisted.

It seems I am not the only one in whom this question created a burning desire to reply. As I posted the simple query on my social networks, the question got over 400% more attention than most of my other posts.

Interesting, I thought. Something about this question begs us to answer it.

This is a raw, human dilemma. Though these days, I tend to opt out of dualistic concepts of “good” and “bad”, I remember when I didn’t. I remember when good and bad raged within me, always battling one another.

For me, good and bad used to make up the difference between a road of selfish interest and selfless contribution. Bad was doing what I wanted for myself and good was doing what other people wanted for them. Of course, a journey of spiritual growth landed me in the second category. For a while, that journey was the most painful one I’d ever been on.

For a while, everything “good” I did—everything I did for others—seemed to take a direct stab at what I wanted. I was in a constant battle between self and world, individualism and collectivism, power and love.

For a long time, being a good person wasn’t just hard—it hurt.

That is, until I realized I was leaving myself out of the “people” equation. I realized that I, like anyone else, want the same thing from myself. I want unconditional love, peace of mind, and happiness too.

Serving my own needs is not the opposite as serving others. When I know myself, it is one and the same. When I know myself, I know you and everyone else. I know love.

I believe the question about being a good person lights a fire within most people because we come into this world facing what appear to be two very different realities. In one reality, we are supposed to be good, kind, and loving to everyone. We are to give ourselves fully, reciprocate to others, and seek to change the world for the better. That, we are often told, is “good.”

Then, there is the reality that, more often than not, dwells within. Here, we dream of power, triumph, drive, achievement, winning. In that reality, it’s not about how we serve others but how we benefit ourselves. We often hear this view of the world being called “bad,” “selfish,” “uncaring.”

Even if we lose our connection to the words “good” and “bad,” other words take their place—words like “I” and “You” where to serve myself is to hurt you or to serve you is to lose for myself.

Too often, this dilemma is framed as a “you cannot have your cake and eat it too” scenario when, really, we can just learn to bake cakes and do it regularly so that, when we have finished one, we can just bake another.

Anything that makes us feel good and hurts others is inferior to that which serves ourselves and serves others.

It is only when we divide ourselves from other people that good becomes hard and bad becomes tempting. In that division, we overlook our own needs. There is no way to be separate and be happy. At least not authentically and certainly not for long.

The two realities in this world, then, aren’t “good” versus “bad.” They are more like “good and bad” versus “unconditional love.”

That’s what I think it really means to be a “good person”: to love yourself and others and to realize that there are no bad people. We’re all connected, all good, and all worthy. Of course, some people are more lost than others, but those people are often hurt, out of touch with the power of unconditional love.

And you never know—maybe those “bad” people in your life just need someone to see the good person inside them, to see them through eyes of unconditional acceptance, unconditional love. Maybe that’s what they’ve been missing all along.


3 thoughts on “Is It Hard to be a Good Person?

  1. Bad is missing the opportunity to make someone else feel good. Then you feel bad. And maybe next time you make up for it.

    1. I feel you, Linda. I feel you 100% on that one. I read, in Daring Greatly (Brene Brown’s book that I am consuming like a sweet piece of pie at the moment) that this is a female-centered kind of “bad”. We’re taught to be everything to everybody, and never break a sweat doing it. The strange thing is – even when you realize this – which is very liberating – it doesn’t take away the leash. It’s almost as if we need to go somewhere else, leave the room and find something else, in order to combat those “You are bad” voices in certain aspects. Then, one day we can say to ourselves… “You did bad…. do better next time.” Which is I think where you’ve evolved to, if I’m not mistaken. Good work, Linda 🙂

      1. Ha – a female-centred bad, like flirting too much. “But honey, I HAD to be all things to that man. It would have been terrible not to.” Literally it would be BAD to not flirt in any given situation. I understand my own life a whole boat-load better now. Thanks!

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