Monday, June 20, 2011
Much Ado About Goodness
As my daughter and I prepare to move, we've been making it a point to spend some time together before each of us heads into a new chapter of our lives. We have an easy way with each other, and good humor and laughter is always present when we hang out. There have been moments this past week that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. To say I am grateful to her for giving to me of her time would be an understatement. Over the years, I've had people tell me, after witnessing or hearing about my relationship with my daughter, "You're a good mother," like they need to come up with some reason why she gives to me, or shows me her love. I am always a little shocked by this statement, because I don't view it as something I did to deserve her love...I see the gift of her loving act as a blessing outside anything I did or am. It's about her, not me. I have a full recognition that she doesn't have to give me her time, her love, or anything else if she doesn't want to. The fact that she makes that choice freely to go there with me means a great deal to me, and with the recognition of it, I feel grateful.
I have found, in observing folks over the years, that mankind has an obsession with being, and therefore appearing good. Along with it is also the need to protect that appearance. I did too, until I came across this statement right here: "Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good -- except God alone." (Mark 10:18) I remember my reaction to that statement was one of confusion. In fact, my brain did a big ERT. What the hell did He mean by that? Wasn't He like the epitome of good? Try as I might, I couldn't understand it, but I felt like it was important for me to see, so I tucked it into the back of my mind and heart to be processed while I went about other things, bringing it out now and then to meditate on and ponder. Finally, my eyes were opened, and understanding dawned. Labeling a person as good, is the exact same thing as labeling them as bad. Both are a judgment, because both are an opinion that is made subjective from the perception of the beholder. What's good or bad to one person isn't necessarily good or bad to all. We all have our definitions of what constitutes good and bad.
Once I understood what Jesus meant by His statement, I can't even describe to you how freeing it felt. It also opened the door in my mind to understanding what "righteousness" as opposed to "self righteousness" was all about. Here's the trouble we get into when we are concerned with being "a good person." A few weeks ago I mentioned a friend of mine being thrown out of her house, and left homeless, with nothing but the clothes on her back, and a few dollars. ( I finally heard from her, and she found a place to stay, and is doing as well as can be expected. She still doesn't have what rightfully belongs to her). The two men who ousted her believed they had good reason to do so. They kept all her belongings, including her purse and ID's, and her beloved animals. I encountered them a few times after all this happened, once while they were rifling through all her belongings, and without fail, they went into a litany of justifications for doing what they did, mainly making her out to be "the bad person," and ending with..."I'm a good person." Hrmm....
Here's my viewpoint on what transpired:
These two men do have good within them. I see it there, just as I see it within every human being I encounter. They are human, bound to make mistakes, and this one was a doozy. First, if they wanted her out, there was nothing wrong with that. If they had kept it that simple, and not judged even their desire to want her gone, and what that meant about them by definition, things probably would have turned out a whole lot different. But instead, they needed to find a reason for their simple desire. From my perception, in the very moment they found a reason to evict a gentle, soft spoken 60 year old woman from a place she felt safe to be in, they lost any and all signs of their own humanity, and therefore did not see hers...at all. They didn't see another human being standing before them. What they saw instead was a battle between good vs. evil. An eye for an eye. And they absolutely needed to make her out as the bad person, and got busy after the act to bring others to their "side" to justify their deed, and I'm sure, to be able to sleep at night. They needed to be 100% right about their act, (which is the definition of self righteousness), and saw only how she had wronged them...being the good people that they are. In their mind, they were the victims, and put their entire focus on themselves and how they had been victimized, then acted accordingly. What's wrong with this picture?
Victims victimized. Well, a victim mentality victimized. For who was the true victim in this case?
Here's the thing....even if what they said was true, that she did indeed do what they said she did, they could have gone about the entire episode in a much more humane way. Without losing sight of her humanity, and their own, they could have chosen to do what's right and good, instead of trying to be right and good. I may be wrong about this, but there is not one place I have found within the Bible where God says man himself is evil, or good for that matter. Instead, there is a whole bunch of mentions about man doing evil or good. And that means we choose good or evil, not that we are either one.
Regardless, in dropping the concern over whether I'm a good or bad person, or appear as one, I discovered it was easier to do what's right by another human being. I found it actually freed me to practice the ability to step back and consider someone else other than myself. It brought me an acceptance, and a recognition of my own humanity, and all that that entails, and others. Do I have moments where I don't behave very well toward another? You betchya. But that doesn't make me, by definition, a good or bad person. It's just means I behaved badly. I am not my behavior. I choose my behavior. Sometimes, I've got it wrong.
Here is the most important thing that dropping the concern over whether I'm a good or bad person gave to me; it freed the love within me. There is a great deal of folks who compare love when there is no comparison. The spirit of Love is behind ALL love, no matter how, or where it is expressed. Expressing love, in whatever form, doesn't make a person a good person. As soon as we drop the concern about being good or bad, we also drop the pretense that we are loving, and that frees us to love in actuality. Loving doesn't make me a "good" person. It only makes me a human being who is choosing to express and give it. I don't have to give it, just like my daughter doesn't have to. She just does. And the recognition of that is truly the most awesome thing ever.
Yesterday, Father's Day, was the anniversary of when someone I loved dearly sought to end my life 3 years ago. He was another person obsessed with being, or appearing to be a good person. That obsession, that need, is the very thing I see that led to that day. He wanted to silence me over his own bad behavior to save his good image. In his mind, he was the victim, and made sure to try to save and protect his "good" image from someone who he thought was going to take it from him. I just wanted him to treat me right, do right by me, see me as a human being. The very same as I see my friend wanted who was evicted from her home. He could only see himself, and his need to protect his lie, because others might find out he wasn't such a good person after all...God forbid. If he had dropped the concern, dropped the act of appearing good all together, and did the right thing, even he would have been so much happier. He truly had good within him...he just wasn't choosing it.
Years ago, a wise woman once told me, "Cindy, feelings aren't good, and feelings aren't bad, they just are." In the same way, we humans aren't good, and we aren't bad, we're just human...like everyone else.