Blog: A Reality Check
(originally written 12/6/11)
There I am in line at one of those 5-and-dime stores. A young woman and her children are in line ahead of me.
Her items are rung, her total is given. As she pays, she turns to the cashier and asks to be charged for an ornament she’d accidentally broken in the back of the store.
I was not facing the women initially, but I reflexively turned their way and thought to myself, incredulously: “You admitted that? They would have never known! What is WRONG with you?!”
My next thought: “What is WRONG with ME?”
Here this woman was, trying to set a good example for her children and be a responsible citizen, and my first impulse—impulse—was to ridicule her. In those few moments, I realized something about myself, something I’d refused to ever openly admit before…
…I might not be the good person I’d convinced myself I was.
For my entire adult life, I rationalized, even justified, my sometimes contemptible behavior with a reminder that I do not hurt people, I do not rape them, I do not steal from them, and unless seriously provoked I do not even yell at them—so I must fall under the category of “good”.
This required deeper analysis.
The term “good person” is too abstract a label to place on—or remove from—someone hastily. So I got home, sat down, and asked myself: what makes a good person in the first place (at least, in my eyes)?
A good person isn’t necessarily honest all the time, because honesty can really be painful if abused. A good person doesn’t necessarily follow the law to the letter, because some laws are, frankly, stupid. He/she doesn’t necessarily follow the Bible for the same reasons. (Sit and read that thing if you haven’t. You’d be surprised at what was frowned upon in Biblical times. But I’m not here to talk about the past.)
A good person doesn’t cheat. A good person doesn’t judge. A good person doesn’t take, take, take without ever giving. A good person doesn’t always put him/herself first. A good person does offer support. A good person causes no one else harm or hardship. A good person calls you just because. A good person cares. A good person loves and forgives.
So…where do I fit in?
Is a guy who lies to strangers for his own benefit/amusement, yet never steals and even returns dropped $ to old ladies a good person?
Is a guy who does nothing to help the homeless, the elderly, the stricken, the less fortunate, or kids—and doesn’t particularly want to—yet doesn’t litter, recycles, and goes out of his way to conserve water a good person?
Remember this Seinfeld quote from Jerry about a girl he’d just dumped: “She's too good. I mean, she's giving and caring and genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. I can't be with someone like that!“ Can a guy who echoes this sentiment 100% be a good person—even if he once took on a group of punks who were throwing rocks at innocent, helpless ducks?
I have no clue. But you know what? I don’t really care, because whether or not I’m a “good person”, I gotta be doing something right, cuz I’ve got a daughter, a family, and a shitload of buddies who love me just the way I am, transgressions and all.
And—as long as I raise Josie to be better—there’s nothing WRONG with that. :)