I believe in goodness. Not Pollyanna, Hollywood, happy ending goodness. Nor kind-hearted, selfless, purity of mind goodness. I know well what I don’t mean by goodness because I’m nice. I’m nice, but I’m not good. I say the F-word when my computer shuts down and I have hissy fits when customer service representatives don’t do what I ask of them. I make my husband angry and I drive my staff crazy. But I am nice. Everyone says so, and I know they are right. I smile a lot, I am generous, I look on the bright side and give almost everyone the benefit of the doubt when their goodness is questioned. But nice is rarely good. My boss warns me that I’m too nice, especially when one of my staff needs clear limits. And southerner that I am, one can reasonably question my sincerity when I glad hand everyone I meet. Worst of all is my penchant for seeking ignorant bliss; if things are not as I think they are, I don’t want to hear it. So, then, why do I believe in goodness if I only know what it isn’t? I like the scriptural image of the “Good Land”, a place that “lacks nothing”, where one neither hungers nor thirsts. Sweet and juicy fruits are not only ripe for picking, but also abundant and accessible and free of charge. Fresh water bubbles up like the hot springs of European spas and flows over lush landscapes, like the breathtaking views I see on the Appalachian Trail. But more importantly, it is a place free from anxiety, with no opportunity for have and have-not divisions. It’s not simply a feast for the senses, but a world where everyone, as the passage says, can “be full”. Goodness is the ability to recognize what one has been given, to accept and inwardly digest these gifts, to let oneself feel sated and to share this bounty with others. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.