I believe that people are good. In spite of all the horrible things we know are going on in the world—the wars and political machinations and hometown crime—I believe that for the most part people are good at heart.
I am not a gullible person, but I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt. If someone tells me they didn’t do it, I tend to believe them (or at least try to be open minded) until I find out that they did. I didn’t grow up in a family of holier-than-thou goody-two-shoes, but character and integrity were foremost. I was expected to be honest and respectful, to wait my turn and be polite. When I was five, my parents ended my trick-or-treating early because I asked for another goody at one house. That wasn’t polite. This is embedded so deeply into my brain that I even remember what the treat was.
Because I was lucky enough to marry a man who believes in me, my faith in the goodness of mankind is now rooted in my family. I can be most unkind, gripped by the meanest bad mood imaginable, and they still treat me kindly. They may not like me right then, but they see past what I am in that moment, believing in my own goodness.
The older I get, the more I understand that many people really aren’t good. When people lie to my face and I later discover the lie, I am as disappointed in them as if I were their own mother. I expected so much more! And I know that some people are capable of some truly abhorrent actions. It’s taken me years to realize that some people are just broken. Still, shouldn’t we try to mend what’s broken rather than automatically assign it to the rubbish pile? I mean, that’s what I’d want someone to do with me. I believe some broken things can be fixed.
My little boy has said to me several times, “You are the best mommy I’ve ever had.” This belief of his only reinforces my belief in the basic goodness of people. I’m just an average woman doing an average job on any given day, but I’m the highlight of his life. He believes in me.
I know that today it’s easy to say that the world is becoming a bad place. Its edges seem sharper, it’s colors less vibrant, it’s attitude unfriendly and self-absorbed. Still, I think the world is a good place overall. Maybe it just needs someone to believe in it.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.