Believe It or Not, Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

THE TIMELESS PRINCIPLE OF GOODNESS

This is one in a series of essays that was originally conceived as a book for print publication. If you enjoy it and would like to read more from the collection, you can find a sort of Table of Contents here.

Kindness and the principle of goodness are directly connected.

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Both generally involve thinking of other people first: their thoughts, their feelings, their preferences. Giving people the basic dignity of treating them as you would want to be treated.

But goodness forces us to take an even broader view. Goodness basically involves doing what is right and good for others even if it’s not the kindest or friendliest thing to do.

How in the world can that be? How contradictory!

Well, not really. Here are some examples:

A young mother stops her infant from running into the street after his favorite ball. The ball gets popped by an oncoming car and the child’s arm is sore from where she grabbed him.

As far as the kid is concerned, Mommy was not very kind. But she did the right thing! That was goodness.

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Dad finds an empty beer can in his 17-year-old son’s car and confiscates the kid’s keys for the weekend, completely ruining a date he had planned.

Ouch. Was that loving? Peaceful? Kind? Not if you ask the son. But was it good? All the parents think so.

As a parent, the parenting examples come readily to my mind, but certainly the principle of goodness can be exemplified in countless ways. The point is that sometimes the good or right thing to do is not always the easiest, kindest thing to do. But if it’s truly done with the other person’s best interests at heart, it’s still good.

Now a serious warning is in order here: since goodness can sometimes involve making the decision to do something in someone else’s best interest, even against their will, you’d better be darn sure that what you’re doing is actually the right thing. AND you’d better darn well be in a position where you are morally, ethically, and legally able to take whatever action you’re thinking of taking!

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Because if you’re not, all the pure motive in the world won’t change the fact that you’ve imposed your will on another human being where you had no right to do so. And that will never be good.

So, as a parent, you’re in a tough position sometimes, needing to make difficult decisions on behalf of your children that they may not appreciate or agree with. At least not yet. In some other facets of life, you may need to do the same for others as well. Being good is not easy, especially since the easier path is generally the wrong one.

But when the dust settles and you look back on the decisions you’ve made, you will hopefully be able to confirm that what you did was the right thing. And hopefully, by then, the people you helped out will appreciate it too.

Thank goodness.

WORDS TO REMEMBER:“Do all the good you can and make as little fuss about it as possible.” — Charles Dickens

This is one in a series of essays that was originally conceived as a book for print publication. If you enjoy it and would like to read more from the collection, you can find a sort of Table of Contents here.

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