One of my favorite songs right now is a parody music video by a YouTube content creator by the name of TheOdd1sOut entitled Good Person. In the video, the performer goes through several examples of a completely self absorbed person who does a number of “good” things in an effort to show what a virtuous person they are, but each example is nullified by an equally bad or selfish thing that shows his true colors. The message of the video is funny but clear: the point of doing good things is to be good, not to look good.
This is a perfect satirical statement about our society today. Too many people are far more interested in their own optics rather than actually getting anything done. In a nation where the average person craves fame more than value, it is difficult to find people who you can count on to do the right thing even most of the time. More often than not, what we see in public is vastly different than who the person really is in their private life.
Most of us struggle with this in our own lives from time to time, so it is difficult to become too angry with these people. One of the hardest things for a person to do is to break away from the crowd and stand up for something that isn’t very popular. It doesn’t matter if the thing we believe in is factually correct or morally righteous. Our fear of rejection or even physical harm can sometimes prevent us from doing the right thing. It’s easy to be noble when there aren’t any consequences for it. The task becomes infinitely more difficult when we have to face opposition.
Still, a lack of courageous people in our society is exactly why we see the societal rot that we live with today. Career politicians are the most obvious and corrupt example of this. If you look back on the average representative, you will likely find a multitude of positional changes as you move through their history. Sometimes it is a genuine change of heart on an issue, but most of the time it is either political expediency or a necessary evil to save their job. Rarely does a politician truly sacrifice himself on the alter of truth.
On a more basic level, this is a problem not only with the people charged with leading our nation, but also with the general public at large. Most of us want to look like we’ll always do the right thing, but when an opportunity comes along that’s just too tempting to ignore we’ll happily jump into a situation that is harmful to someone else to line our own pockets. The riots over the last year or so are evidence of this. Average people stealing and destroying the livelihoods of their own neighbors, ostensibly because they’re angry about some esoteric problem but the reality is that it’s because they have an excuse to be evil and can get away with it.
There are a lot of places to lay the blame for this kind of behavior. The feckless media we have today certainly doesn’t help. They always cover the things that make us hate each other while ignoring the things we’ve done that make our nation great. The movie and television industry is no better, showing us as much violence and sex and other mind rotting material as they can cram through their production lines. Social media platforms filter out the things we really should be seeing in favor of those that pit us against each other, a divide and conquer strategy as old as time.
The bottom line, however, is that it doesn’t matter if we have corrupt politicians or a hollowed out media industry or even social networking conglomerates actively working against us. No matter what you see in your daily life, the only person responsible for your actions is you. When you set aside the noise of all the excuses laid out in this article and look at yourself in the mirror, all you’re left with is the actions you chose to take. It becomes very difficult to sidestep the guilt when there’s no one to blame but yourself.
The point of this article is not to make anyone feel bad, but to point out that being a good person is an internal thing. Much like being in love, no one else can tell you if you’re virtuous. You just know because you do virtuous things with no thought of reward. This is probably the hardest thing to do, because human beings are naturally selfish and want to get paid for their efforts. But the truth is that the best rewards have nothing to do with anyone else. It is feeling good about ourselves that is the greatest payment we can ever receive.
What do you think about fake goodness? How do you feel when you find out someone you thought was good never really was? Are you able to tell the difference between a truly selfless person and someone who just wants to get something from you? There’s nothing you can really do about the people in life who just want to get what they can for themselves, but you can always do something to make yourself a better person. The better you make yourself, the more you’ll be able to see people for who they truly are.
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