being a good person

Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?” -Dallas Willard

I’ve been thinking about this question ever since it was asked to me.  I love a good question, it exercises my thinking muscles, and processing it burns the fuzz off my thinking.

This question forces you to dig in the back of your brain and ask questions like, “how do we define, “good?”   Good in today’s society may be subjective. It is subjective precisely because we live in a society that claims that everyone’s own opinion is right.   In a world where everyone is right then everyone IMG_1312is their own version of good.   Many claim that humanity is basically “good,” in fact this is the claim of many world religions, but what does reality tell us?  Regardless of how we define “good”, does the reality that we are living in point toward the goodness of humanity or the flawed nature of humanity?

We live in a society where we glorify what is evil by calling it good.  Television and movies do this in spades, and you can read my thoughts about it here.  I live in a reality where people can be wrong, everyone else does too, and they just don’t realize it. If we believe that people can be wrong,  then, could it be possible that they are wrong about what they perceive to be good?  Good is so subjective because, we live in a world where everyone’s opinion is right.  If everyone perceives themselves as correct, then everyone’s definition of “good” is also correct. That makes for seven billion definitions of the word “good.”

Lets look at an age-old definition of the word, “love” for more insight to what is good.  The word, Agape means, love, and is used in the Bible to talk of love.  Because I am trying to make an argument that applies in secular circles, I am only going to talk about the usage of Agape in the context of Greek Philosophy.   The word Agape (among other things) means, “will-to good” or willing the benefit of what or who is loved.  In easier terms it means that you activity work for the benefit or good of others, and this is where we find a definition of the word “good” that is thousands of years old.

Can you love cake?  No, because you cannot work for its benefit, only its demise.  You can desire cake, which goes to show our confusion with the word love and therefore what is “good.”   If we accept that “love” and “good” work together, then I think we have a working definition of what is good.  “Good” and “love” work together because in order to do good or to benefit someone, you have to love them.

This all brings us back to the original question: Can you have a good life if you’re not a good person?  Can you work for the benefit of someone else and hate them?  The fact of the matter is that you can hate someone and do something for their benefit, it is possible.  But, is it sustainable?  To hate someone and actively work for their benefit would make you hypocritical.  Ultimately, one cannot live in a state of sustained dualism for long without breaking.

I do not believe that you can have a good life if you are not a good person.  I think that these things go hand in hand.  In order to have a good life we need to think about what it means to be a good person.  Once we figure out what it means to be a good person and live it, then I think a good life will follow.

If you accept what I am laying out there as truth, then wouldn’t it make sense to then explore what love is?  When we learn how to live in this Agape type of love, then we will begin to find out what it means to be a good person.


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