We teach our children to “be good,” but is that a great idea?
Here are two strong arguments against it
Life is complicated. Stealing to feed your family isn’t the same as stealing to feed your drug habit.
Lying to save someone’s life isn’t the same as lying to get away with being caught for something.
And everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn.
When we call something “good’ and other things “bad,” we set up a way to separate ourselves from each other.
We create reasons to hide and lie.
We create conditions beyond which we can’t forgive or recover.
The whole idea behind encouraging “goodness” is to help each other and create more connection and happiness.
The other side of that is that we can ostracize those we see as “not good” and harbor secret shame for the things we’ve done that don’t dare show.
That’s very destructive.
It’s Not Genuine
Who do you know who is truly good inside and out?
It’s a bit like asking who is perfect. Where do you draw the line at how much dirt a person can have without being labeled “bad.”
Real people are flawed, interesting, and diverse. We try things. We succeed. Sometimes we fail.
As we grow, we hurt people along the way. We get hurt.
Real people make really great decisions. We make decisions that are catastrophic failures.
Sometimes they impact only us, and sometimes the disaster is shared.
It’s colorful, unpredictable, and without guarantees.
Asking people to live it in a “good” way implies that we know the outcome before we’ve played the game.
That’s an impossible bar for anyone to meet.
Don’t be emotionally constipated
Be Authentic Instead
Authentic people don’t withhold their angry, unhappy feelings. They don’t pretend to be what they aren’t, and aren’t ruled by other people’s perceptions or desires.
Live Your Values
Being authentic doesn’t mean you throw goodness out the window. It just means that perhaps you hold values and authenticity above other people’s judgments and standards.
It’s the Best of Both Worlds
When you live your values and keep your authenticity, chances are goodness will flow quite naturally as a byproduct. The people who like you will like you for truthful reasons and not some fake picture of you.
Embracing authenticity also gives you more compassion for the road that others have traveled. Since you’re honest about your foibles, it’s easier to forgive and understand those of others. It’s a lot easier to connect to someone who is real, too.
So, are you ready to let go of some of that goodness?