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"Am I a good person?" - Convenient Self-Indulgence [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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"Am I a good person?" [Oct. 7th, 2008|12:33 am]
[mood |thoughtfulReflecting]

Some very simple philosophy of self evaluation.

Two years ago, a friend of mine was weighed down by the question, "Am I a good person?"

I told him that, objectively, there is no answer to this question. I put aside the fact that "good" depends on values, since he does in fact have values by which to judge. More importantly, asking this as a yes/no question meant that he had to set a standard, a bar above which one was "good," and below which one was "not good". This is clearly an absurd and arbitrary thing to do: Do you set the bar at some person like Shakyamuni Buddha? Mahatma Gandhi? Senator Tom Harkin? Good luck living up to it. How about the median person? No, that just arbitrarily defines half of humanity as "good" and the other half as "not good". What use is that?

A much more useful question is, "Am I a better person than I was?" (Say, a year ago.) This is about growing, rather than merely being. He was very happy with this rephrased question, and with his answer to it.

Don't spend time berating yourself for not being what you are not, or congratulating yourself on being what you are. Just work to improve yourself. It's a simple and satisfying goal.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: qhudspeth
2008-10-07 06:24 pm (UTC)
Well said, my friend. Well said.
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[User Picture]From: dolohov
2008-10-07 06:46 pm (UTC)
It's far easier to tear down good people until they're roughly at my level. That's what Buddha did, the evil fuck.
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[User Picture]From: rigel
2008-10-21 05:55 am (UTC)
Good and bad with with me like right and wrong. Unless you break it down to a very small degree, it makes little sense to me.

There is good and bad for certain situations, however. In fact, in my recent Rigel Manual post, I cited you as my example of an excellent casual friend in terms of how you treat me. :)
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[User Picture]From: blimix
2008-10-21 01:36 pm (UTC)
Aw, that's sweet! *HUGS*

People have many reasons for not accepting the "good/bad" dichotomy. What is/are yours? I am particularly interested because this case is about self judgment, which limits with some (but only some) types of relativism.
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