Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Like many others out there, I have gone through life considering myself a good person. But lately I have been wondering if all that confidence is misplaced. Am I really a good person? Or am I a raving lunatic with antisocial tendencies? Is not breaking the law the same as being a good person? What about being faithful, is that enough to put me on the "Nice" list? What if I yell when I get angry? What if I never want to do chores? Or hate talking on the phone? What if I don't recycle? What if I avoid activism like the plague? Do all those things render me bad?

What exactly constitutes goodness? I really want to know. Comments are encouraged.


  1. Interesting question to ponder! I think most of us tend to be much harder on ourselves than others are. Does doing/not doing the things you listed make you bad? Hardly... it makes you very human! We ALL have our preferences, quirks, and things that some folks just plain can't relate to. How boring it would be if we all felt the same and behaved the same! It's the variety of personalities that makes it interesting. My theory is that those folks who seem so good as to have invisible halos probalby have as much hiding in their closets as the rest of us, they are just more out there with the public "good stuff". I know if you tried you could make a list of many things you do "good". Right off the top of my head - you are devoted spouse and mother, and those are probably the two very hardest roles to pull off without going crazy!

    I think I'm a basically good person, because I know I have a good heart and I genuinely care about other people. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things about me that I am not proud of. I can be impatient, demanding, obnoxious, lazy, undisciplined, and the list goes on and on. Still, I think I'm pretty much ok with me, most of the time at least.

    I guess if there are truly bad people, it would be those who intentionally hurt others. That's bad. Also those that are so self-focused that they have no heart for anyone else. They totally lack compassion and have no moral compass. I've known a couple like this in my lifetime - total absence of soul - scary. I prefer to think of them as very damaged, but I still wouldn't want them in my life or near anyone I care about.

    I bet if you ask your family they could come up with many good things about you. You are not masquerading as good, you truly are Ingrid - believe it! Gotta love yourself before you can feel loved!

  2. Hi there. Josie turned me on to you and I am going to comment, but briefly. I'm going to save my lengthy response for my blog.

    What constitutes a good person is as varied as people and situations they are in. While we can all agree a mass murderer is a bad person, its harder to narrow down when you aren't talking about something quite so horrific. We all have our own values and that really determines what we think of each other, good, bad, or indifferent.

  3. To me, a good person is someone who finds it very hard to hurt other people knowingly.

  4. It is difficult to answer this concisely but I go with the consensus on this one - it is in our dealings with others that we reveal the true measure of ourselves!!

  5. If you found a present under your Christmas tree addressed to you from Santa, then you are a good person.

    If not, then you are a normal person and probably don't believe in Santa anymore, and should realize there is no such thing as a good or evil person.

  6. Greg: There isn't good or evil? What am I going to call Cheney, then?

    But, seriously. You really think there is no good or bad person? I know we live in a gray world and there are no clear cut absolutes. But my binary-inclined mind still struggles with the concept of no good and no evil.

  7. Ask yourself what do you mean by good? What do you mean by bad? Now do you think your neighbor would agree with your definitions? Do you think a random person on the Internet would agree with your definitions?

    If you believe everyone will completely agree, then ok, you win, there is good and bad or evil. If not, then that means either these absolutes don't really exist, or only one person is correct on their definition.

    Good and bad are a result of morality, and morality is a doctrine of how one person or group wants or desires everyone else to behave. Morality is a way of getting people to do something for which there is not really a sound reason for doing it. So a bad person in this regard is a person who doesn’t blindly do what someone else tells them to do.

    If someone said "Don't kill" and then said because just don't or I said so, or Bob says so, then that is a moral statement. But if someone says "Don't kill" and then said because life is finite and to kill is to waste a life that cannot be recreated. That is a reasoned statement.

    The qualifiers good and bad go with morality as in: doing what is moral (or what I tell you to do) is good, not doing so is bad. Actions for or against statements of reason are not good or bad, they are simply reasonable or unreasonable.

    So the question (unless you blindly follow some "moral" standard rather than reason or rationality) is not one of good or bad, but if you are behaving reasonably/rationally or unreasonably/irrationally. It is not bad to behave irrationally; it is simply illogical.

    People behave differently because they form different rational arguments on behavior with the simplest being to behave morally, which I believe to be irrational because morality is an empty premise.

  8. I see what you mean, but I could argue that morality and reason may both be subject to relativity.

    Let's use your example, do not kill. Whether one person would say says "it's bad" and another says "it's unreasonable", both agree that killing is an undesirable action because it would deprive another human of their life. Maybe the judgment value is expressed differently, but there is a judgment value in both cases.

    What if someone else comes along and says "it is perfectly reasonable to kill someone since the human population is growing at such an alarming rate and we need to conserve resources. There are too many people and not enough food, so if we kill a few there will be more left for the rest." Isn't that argument built on the grounds of reason?

  9. Ay, Ingrid, en estos días estoy viviendo unos momentos en los que me pregunto si realmente tengo amigos. Siempre me he considerado una 'buena persona', pero descubrí que en el círculo en que me movía para ser aceptado tenías que pensar igual que los demás. Amistad condicional. Eso era.

    Sé lo mejor que puedas ser siendo tú misma.

  10. There was once a society where second children were killed at birth, boiled and eaten in a stew by the tribe in order to fulfil some obscure fertility rite mandated in the distant past. The tribe member chosen to kill the baby was required to do so as a rite of passage to adulthood, and those tasked with cutting it up for the pot were the children who had just turned five years old.

    No in the context of Western society this sounds particularly evil and something to be denounced, but in the context of that society it was normal.

    So good and bad depend much upon context and there is good and bad in everyone, to borrow a line from a song. It may even be that our moral sense and ehtic changes over time so that what was once acceptable now becomes unacceptable - like drink driving, or smoking in restaurants.

    So my advice is simply to do your best and base that upon what you believe, not what others foist upon you.

  11. I hate talking on the phone and doing chores too. But I still think I am a good person, I just may not always be a NICE person.

  12. Delayed response, sorry, but I've been away.

    Your response is valid only for contradictions of morality, but not of reason/logic. If two people disagree morally then there really isn't much that can be done to reconcile them except to brainwash/condition one to believe the same as the other.

    Yet if two people disagree on the basis of a reasoned argument, then the way to resolve the issue is to examine the arguments and figure out if either contains a logical flaw.

    The case of killing someone is more complicated than a simple abstract question of whether to kill someone or not. Pacifists base their reasoning on unsound abstract premises because when you add in conditions to the argument such as that there are others in the world willing to kill you, then you must question whether it is acceptable to die without a fight, or if survival is more important.

    Once you enter this territory of questioning, morality falters (or in their terms, creates exceptions like killing in the name of a country or religion). My simplified response to the killing questions (I'll go into depth at some point in the future on my blog) is that one should minimize harm that is done to others, but it cannot be avoided. Some of my premises are that survival is critical to life and as I mentioned, life is finite.

    So this allows me to accept things like war as being necessary, abortion, and killing when your life is in jeopardy. A full argument would have to clearly define these premises and explore limits and consequences.

    Most people are incapable of pure reason and if you look hard enough you will eventually find premises founded on nothing but blind belief. Science, by its very nature, is even founded on blind belief at some point; otherwise we would know everything and not need science.

    So your response is valid to an extent that we all have belief hiding behind reason. The rational person will acknowledge this and continue to explore these unfounded premises until these can then be founded on something. That is the impetus of science.

    Following Loz, China had child limitation laws (and still may). It was something like one child per family unless the first is a girl, then another is allowed, but no more (I could be off, but this is the gist). This resulted in many infantile deaths as a result of parents killing their daughters in order to be able to have a son. Some will argue that abortion isn’t much different than this (that’s another question I’ll tackle at some point).