Sep 17, 2012


In order to remove fallacy about goodness or being good, I have tried to extricate the notion of being good and how it affects our lives if we are good or are trying to be good. I am inspired to write on this topic by a book written by Gurucharan Das called ‘The difficulty of being good’. It is a great book and its central theme of goodness revolves around different characters of the famous Indian epic called ‘Mahabharata’. So far I have not read the book and whatever I have heard from my wife in bits and pieces has helped me in conceptualizing the notion of being good with an idea of analyzing goodness and what goodness means to me in our day to day lives. My analysis is based on my own philosophy and logical reasoning on the topic and it has nothing to do with the book written by Gurucharan Das or any of the characters in his book.

To understand the goodness we will have to ask ourselves what goodness means to us. Is goodness an inborn quality of human beings or does a person become good due to their surrounding environment? If we are good in nature or behaviour or in contrary then what difference does it make in our lives? Does goodness pay off? Do people take advantage of goodness? Is there any correlation between goodness and cleverness? Can we survive in this world being good and not being clever? How do we differentiate between natural goodness and pretentious goodness? Do people become good by going to university or learning books of knowledge or by going to religious places or are they born good nature?

Goodness is the quality of a person and being good is the outcome of such qualities which differentiates between the acts of kindness and gentleness. A person can show the sign of kindness or gentleness apparently but may not be a good person by nature. An act of kindness and gentleness is a part of our emotional outburst which may be enacted due to the spur of a moment or in specific circumstances. It may be temporal in nature whereas if a person is good in nature then kindness and gentleness will become an inseparable part of the personality. The quality of goodness will remain with person in all times to come. 
Goodness is not a measure which will fluctuate with the time, mood or circumstances. It is a constant which never changes. It is also a quality with which a person is bestowed upon. It is a state of mind which provides a person with calmness, tranquility and positive thoughts in every circumstance to act or behave in a manner which is filled with understanding, forgiveness, compassion, tolerance and kindness. In fact these are the key attributes of goodness. Person having the quality of goodness reflects virtues, piety and moral excellence. This is the reason that Jesus at the time of being crucified, instead of cursing the perpetrators, was filled with empathy and forgiveness and prayed for taking their sin upon him.

Mahatma Gandhi knew very well that goodness always pays and can move the strongest empire on earth, as such instead of revolting with anger and revenge or taking upon arms, he responded to the British Empire with his goodness, tolerance, forgiveness and piety which became an example in the world.

A person, who does not have these inherent qualities and tries to become good or behave like a good person by force, will soon be unable to pretend and their true nature will become visible sooner or later or the act of goodness fades away with the mood and time. There are examples when bad people have become good, cruelty has subsided and they have started behaving like good people due to the awakening of inner knowledge or happening of extra ordinary experiences in their lives. Bad people also change with time if the seed of goodness is present in their personality. Often it takes time for the seeds of goodness to sprout and till then a person is void of this divine quality.

I have seen people going to religious places sincerely or listening to lectures on higher knowledge or reading books for their spiritual awakening. They become religious or spiritual or philosophical for the time being and then as time passes they go back to their original or true selves like elastic. Since the feelings of being good are not the original nature of the person, a veil of serenity is temporarily created around their personality due to the surge of emotions. And once the surge subsides they go back to their true selves.

Most of us have certain nature as part of our mental make-up which influences us to become temperamental, emotional, rude, arrogant, egoist, or to become jealous, introverted or extroverted etc. These qualities create a conflict with the attributes of goodness.  As mentioned earlier, emotion may make a person kind and generous but as the emotion subsides people go back to their true selves good or bad, kind or unkind, generous or miser.  These people even if they try hard, their original nature will keep surfacing or will keep bringing them back to their true selves. True nature is permanent and all efforts to improve ourselves are temporary. Meditation or spiritual practices or the grace of a guide or Guru may make a difference in person’s personality but in the absence of inner strength, will power and strong desire to change it would be extremely difficult to alter the true nature.

I am an ardent advocate of maintaining one’s true personality good or bad. Because this is what one’s personality is made of and any attempt to bring change into the true personality will tantamount to compromise, struggle and that may be hurtful. It is always good to act as per one’s true nature than to be deceitful. But it does not mean that people should not try to improve themselves if there is a presence of strong desire to do so.

Our nature is not what we wanted to become but various elements and factors determine the making of our nature. These factors are so overpowering that even biological, social, spiritual and educational backgrounds do not make much difference in our personality. That is why all siblings are different in nature and behaviour even after getting the same parenting and environment.

Now the question comes up does goodness pay off? To my mind, it does not make a difference to good people whether their acts will bring any benefit or not. It is their inborn quality and they have to act with all their goodness in every circumstance.  A good person will remain good in all times to come. Even in adverse circumstances the quality of goodness will never subside. The vagaries of time have no impact on them. Those who want to see advantages or disadvantages, gain or losses in being good are basically not good people by nature but they try to demonstrate goodness by logic. I can cite several hundred examples to reinforce my assumptions in this regard.

An act of goodness is never forgotten and even the wild beast can become the best friend in times of need. I remember a story from Jataka tales (a compilation of stories of Lord Buddha’s previous lives) when a king in exile was travelling through a thick forest when he heard the roar of a lion at a distance. For a moment he was frozen with fear and saw the lion limping towards him. Being a kind and good person his heart immediately was filled with kindness and compassion. He fearlessly went near the lion and found that a thick thorn was stuck in his paw as a result the lion was in great pain and unable to walk. Without fearing of his life, he sat down near the lion and removed the thorn. He tore a piece of his cloth for dressing of the wound and after sometime lion vanished into the forest.

After a while the king in exile was captured by his enemy and thrown in a dungeon together with a hungry and starving lion. The king thought his end was near but to his surprise when the lion came near him instead of attacking him the lion kneeled down before him and started wagging his tail. The king immediately realized that he was the same lion whom he had helped some time ago.

I have also come across several incidences where offspring was benefited by the good deeds of their parents. The act of goodness may cause pain and suffering in short term but it never goes waste and it comes back to the person doing good in present life or in subsequent lives or to their progeny.

Therefore goodness does not need any certification or recommendation, it reflects from a person’s nature and behaviour. The way one cannot conceal the rays of the Sun, the same way goodness is revealed from a person’s personality.

I have tried to express my thoughts on the topic and I look forward to hearing from you with your comments and what you think about goodness. I would also like to ask questions from our professional friends - Does goodness pay off in the professional world? Have you faced hurdles in your professional life due to your goodness? Can you share your personal experience in this regard?

Suman Saran Sinha, CMC
Certified Management Consultant