Questioning Blimix

"Am I a good person?"

Two years ago, a friend of mine was weighed down by this question.

I told him that, objectively, there is no answer to it. 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.

[Originally posted on my blog.]

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