Goodness is something that abides within each one of us, surfacing again and again in the most ordinary actions. Yet it is not some abstract counterpart to evil, but a quality that can be cultivated and increased to great benefit in our lives. In our brief exploration of the quality goodness, we seek to find out where this quality comes from, as well as distinguish what it is not.
Goodness is often in small things
“Goodness speaks in a whisper, evil shouts”
The reason who so many newspapers carry predominantly negative news is that its dramatic nature jumps out at us more than the millions of little kindnesses being performed day in, day out all over the world. Goodness does not seek to create drama or bring attention to itself, it just seeks to offer what it has to make the world a better place. Many acts of goodness have a sense of being in the present moment, doing the small things right here and now rather than waiting an eternity to do something huge.
Goodness brings greater meaning to life
“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”
The question of human altruism has puzzled psychologists for years – why, in a ‘survival of the fittest’ world, do we go to such great lengths to help others at no evolutionary benefit to ourselves? The beginnings of an answer to this can be found by simply keeping the mind still. Deep inside our hearts, beyond the mind’s stereotyping and division, there is a real sense of connection and empathy with our fellow man. Most of the time this connection is obscured by the mind, but when we do something good for others, this deeper part of us expands and we become a bigger and a better person.
Goodness is also something that attracts more goodness; the more we cultivate this quality in ourselves, the more we recognise it in others. We see less the faults and shortcomings of the world, and more the beauty and wonder of the world as it is and what it could be.
Goodness comes from inner feeling rather than outer morality
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
I would actually go further than Plato, and say that bad people often use the laws themselves as justification for their acts! Goodness goes beyond mere mental observance of social codes and customs, and stems directly from a deep feeling of concern and oneness with humanity. This inner feeling is constantly in touch with the needs of the present moment, and take different expressions depending on the situation it is faced with, in contrast with the rigid ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of morality. The outer morality may at times serve as an adequate foundation for those who have not developed this inner feeling, yet there comes a time in our human development when we have to go beyond this and base our actions solely on our sincere concern for mankind.
Goodness and greatness are two different things.
Is in climbing up
To the top of the tree.
Is in becoming
The tree itself.
– Sri Chinmoy
In the West we are conditions to things being large, and we tend to correlate greatness with goodness. In fact the two may not necessarily go together. Human greatness often has an element of striving for appreciation, a yearning for others to look up to the ‘top of the tree’ and appreciate whatever worthy acts we have just accomplished. Goodness on the other hand, comes naturally from within because we identify with the human condition and feel it as our own – in other words, we become the tree itself.
Picture: Jowan Gauthier, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries