As you know, I have a Perfect Sister. It is not her fault -- she was blessed with the perfect temperament, an undying positive and cheerful attitude, keen intelligence, and just all around goodness. I think I also contributed to her perfection by providing a very nice example of how not to be and how not to act, and so I have to take some credit for how she turned out.
Anyway, recent events have caused me to ponder what makes a person a "good" one, and how to tell when someone is genuinely good and when someone is just lying about being good. Does it seem cynical to suggest that there are fake good people? Hmmm... I don't think I am being cynical -- I am being realistic: there are wolves in sheep's clothing out there (and wolves in cheap clothing, but that is another post).
One thing about being a professional in my field -- you assess all the time. It is not like I separate out my personal self from my professional self -- I am a mental health/people kind of professional and a researcher, and so my mind is always collecting data, analyzing it, collecting more, and trying to objectively figure out what it means.
People who are not quite right do not appreciate this part of me because they do not want anyone looking too hard or too critically at them. And darn it anyway -- it means I am a bad pretender because I cannot lie about what the data suggests -- it is just wrong to misrepresent data. So I can totally set off people who are not right just because I look, I see, and I refuse to pretend I don't.
And so I see the whacky ones -- and they know it -- but I also see the really good ones. And I think it is very interesting to consider what makes a person "good" because it gives me ideas for how I want to be in the world.
I think if I had to sum up what tells us that a person is "good" it would be humility. Really good people do not know how darn good they are, and this means they do not talk about it -- they just do it. My sister does not send emails to the family to announce her every good deed -- "hey family, I sent a thank note!" or "hey family, I volunteered at Elizabeth's school today". If she did that, she would lose her status as Perfect Child and be demoted to simply "Most Annoying Child".
Humility means those extra good among us go about their goodness without calling attention to it -- because calling attention to it says that the point of the good deed was the attention it would bring. I don't think attention-seeking good deeds really qualify as true good deeds because the main point is self-serving, and good deeds are about serving others.
Dear Husband and I have gone round about this -- I say that donating money so that one can have one's name on a building is not a good deed because it is self-serving. He has a slightly different (i.e., wrong ;) opinion about this, and thinks it is okay and still a good deed. I think if the point is to do a good deed, then one does it with less fanfare than having one's name scrawled for time and eternity in cement on a building!
So much the better to do it in a quieter, less garish way -- like in honor of someone besides one's self. Maybe if I win the lottery I will donate money to have a building on campus dedicated as the, "Mrs. Maize Building"... or "The Dear Husband Building" -- how funny it would be to hear students say to each other, "hey -- where is your next class? "It is in the Mrs. Maize building" :)
If we do not think about what makes a person "good", it is less likely that we will hit our target -- if being "good" is indeed our goal. I am fortunate to have really good people in my life, and appreciate their examples. As evidence of my Perfect Sister's goodness, she puts up with me talking/writing about her -- since she is perfect and good and therefore doesn't know she is (humility), she gets embarrassed BUT since she is so good and perfect, she doesn't hit me or send me nasty emails :)
Good deeds all around today -- let's get busy being good :)