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


Tom Robinson, Cincinnati, USA said...

Goodness pays off in every world, professional or not. You may not always get a short term payoff, but in the long run, goodness wins every time.

Benjamin Purcell, California, USA said...

Goodness towards people at the personal level is always immediately rewarding spiritually, goodwill at the corporate level is most always rewarding both financially and supportively long-term.

Richard Potts, North Carolina, USA said...

I am always intrigued when someone talks about goodness or values. Not everyone has the same definition of “good” or “values”. Think for a minute; politicians in all parties talk about values but obviously, they don’t all have the same definition. One must be very careful; therefore, I must ask for your definition of “goodness”. If our definitions are the same, then yes; goodness is important in business and pays off in all situations.

Anil Kumar P.V., Harvard Business Review said...

Thanks for highlighting this topic.

Goodness can be seen in multiple ways :
1. Goodness for self satisfaction - without any expectations from external sources, but to feel good internally
2.with an expectation of reciprocation by words, deeds, actions from external sources etc by making an advance investement.
3.for looking good, seen as good etc for self esteem enhancement
4. Goodness for brand/image creation and management
5. Goodness for selfish purposes as well.
6. Goodness as a vehicle for delivering a badness/harmful package or intent.

Like any other attribute, goodness can be used or misused.... as it is driven by a persons value system.

Either way, the outcome is : some goodness is done, some self fulfillment achieved, some investments made, some bonds/relationships strengthened etc

Also a typical person by nature is reasonable and tries to repay as per his capacity, whenever possible, repays the goodness he has received.

Sometimes, there is a risk of goodness being misunderstood or sceptically looked at.... when goodness is demonstrated.

The doer and the receiver are always driven by the same two questions : "why me?" and "what is the benefit for me?"

Penny for your thoughts.

Kind Regards,

Nathan Gunn, Sydney, Australia. said...

Liked the article.

Juliet Hammond, Leeds, UK. said...

I feel strongly that goodness is something we should pursue whatever the pay-off. In the short term this approach may seem naive but in the long term this builds your reputation as a good person. Furthermore,if we do not operate in an ethical framework then how can we help others to do the same?

Sushena de Simon, Management Consultant, Sri Lanka said...

Goodness is fading from this world and those who have this goodness in them must profess at any cost for posterity.

Erga Arlingga, Management Consultant, Indonesia. said...

Great article.

Mostly, in developed country, Goodness is something that is hard to find. People are too busy with their own business, they don't even care about others. I thought it was worth a try at some value of the company.

Anonymous said...

“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another`s, a smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises “and truly this can be applied to philosophy of goodness as well.
Sumanji, you have covered most of the aspects on philosophy of Goodness. And my personal opinion on this is that the goodness is practiced not for the mere desire to get something in return or for some immediate effect but should be spontaneous and free flowing. And as you mentioned that it does not need any recommendation nor certification but solely reflects from a person`s true nature and behaviour. Most often, if it`s not the true nature does not last long.However. having said that I also want to add that this can also be cultivated if thereis a very strong desire in the mind to do so.There are adverse situations and reasons in this world forbidding oneself from exercising goodness, but it is still not mission impossible and can be achieved after overcoming tribulations. I strongly believe that inner development is just as important as outer physical development.

I would like to conclude by saying “No calculation but give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter, and notice what happens"

Thank you so much for the insightful writing .It uplifts us morally and spiritually.

Shubhra Sen

Dr. Mukund Deshpande, Management Consultant, Pune, India. said...

I liked,

"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."

Joe C.Burke, Atlanta, USA. said...

This is a challenging topic when associated with business, where specific goals regarding ROI come into play. If I serve an investor and other stakeholders in business, then those folks may only get what they are hiring me for if I stick to practices that may not be "good" for others or everyone. And I don't mean being evil, dishonest or intentionally damaging. If a company is losing money because it hired too many employees and subsequently revenues decline, then the corrective action may include not keeping all employees, which certainly is not good for them. If a product becomes overly expensive to produce, it certainly won't be good for the customers who bought it if I save the firm by stopping production and support for that product. These conflict with most people's definition of "good" shere you might otherwise make personal sacrifices that would be punitive in an ROI sense.

Simon Beechinor, Management Consulting, London, UK said...

I feel that expecting "good" to pay off is missing the point - Doing good, in this context, is doing something positive without expectation of reward. In my view.

In terms of redundancies, I don't think it's enough to "do our job" - at such times we really should explore ways of doing more - that's one of the responsibilities of leadership (I think). Redundancies may be an unfortunate fact of business life, but it is how we treat the people, what provision we make for them and the condition in which we leave them, that really matters. Most businesses simply work towards a trouble free staff departure, usually with some sort of pay-off, and consider the job done - most don't do more than that & that sounds perfectly reasonable, no?

Yet there are many virtually cost-free initiatives that one can deliver for a long time after people have left - if people need help - that make the world of difference to them. The goodwill value generated by doing "good" is just phenomenal and, sometimes, of enormous benefit (if we are lucky) to the host business - but that is not the point of it.

Maria Costache, SNSPA, Romania. said...

I liked,

Christian Lenz, CMC, Austria said...

I see two aspects: In general I agree that goodness is necessary and it pays off in the long run - but it takes much energy not to follow the main stream just heading for the short term achievement. Especially in economic world it seems like a game with straight rules: Either you join in or you are yanked out.

John Pope, Management Consultant, Hereford, UK said...

In any profession you have to have a well founded reputation for being 'straight' and 'confidential' . Why else should a client trust you with his confidential personal and business problems and plans.That also includes charging the right and fair rate with no hidden or unwarranted 'extras',and no extravagant expenses. And if you are not straight with the client and the client's staff you will soon be found out and be 'Out' .
Most times you want a long running relationship with your client - you do better and more profitable work that way. And it pays off - you don't have to spend time in marketing if you have clients who always think of you first when they want help. My ' longest serving ' client has used me for help and advice for 36 years as he has grown a succession of businesses. It's great working with him.

T.J.Joseph, Management Consultant, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India said...

In the professional and business world there is an underlying and undefined trust between buyer and seller, be it services or products. If you are "good", it essentially means that you will do what you agreed to do, not that you give more to charity than the next person. Now, if you do not do what you say you will do, will the buyer ever come back to you? Will his/her friends come to you?

There is no alternative to being good in the professional life. If you are not good, you will not be a professional for long.

Greg McHugh, Management and IT Consultant, San Francisco, USA said...

I agree with TJ. It's called integrity. If you have it you can succeed. If you don't, you will ultimately fail.

Barre Fitzpatrick, Director at Stride, IRELAND. said...

While this is a question for the individual, both as professional and as a person, there are important ways that goodness is more than the transaction between two people. There are background factors, that we call 'culture' and 'values', and even 'character', where we are often referring to an organisation, or even a race or nation. There are works of art and philosophy and religion that we refer to for guidance and borrow from. And so goodness is truly important though rarely discussed bbetween us in business. That is why, taking things on trust when we have no real evidence to go on, we can be deceived. Having been deceived arms us, helps us proceed with caution next time... And that has to be an important element of practical wisdom.

Allan Keogh, Senior Organization Transformation Adviser, Adelaide, Australia. said...

Compassion and actions that are in integrity = goodness , the consistent impact of sustained goodness produces that ripple effect [ Buckminster Fullers's precessional effect ] that makes REAL difference in a world of indifference.

As Gandhi said "be the change you wnat to see in the world "

Lets have more Acts of goodness!

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