In Defense of Goodness

My favorite new book of deep thought and delectable quotes in beautifully written essays is John Tanner’s Notes from an Amateur: A Disciple’s Life in the Academy. Because this blog is about thoughts on A World of Good, I especially liked his essay called Grave Thoughts on Greatness and Goodness that makes a case for importance of just plain goodness. He suggests that it’s good to be great but it’s even greater to be good. We see that this was both environmental and hereditary for him as he followed in his father’s footsteps. He said that his dad spent a lot of time making sure that his children succeeded at school, in sports, and as leaders but he had this engraved on his tombstone: In God’s divine plan, all achievements will fade into oblivion except personal righteousness.” Apparently righteousness translates to goodness in the Tanner family as John proceeds to expound on the importance of goodness. He refers to Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and says, “Morally, good is not the enemy of great. Goodness is the enabling condition of true greatness.” It’s a terrific article!

It made me think of how much of our time is often used to “get things done”. The “to do” list is endless and pretty meaningless unless the list includes doing something good for someone. The good old Christian hymn, Have I Done Any Good in the World Today means more in the context of our complicated, demanding, often frustrating and stressful world. Yesterday I got an email from an old friend whose mother was dying. We have loved this woman since before we were married and hadn’t seen her for many years. We were leaving the next day for a two week trip and madly packing and trying to tie up loose ends before our exit. Because getting it done was my first priority, I was driven. My initial thought after I read the message was that I had way too much to do to drop everything for a visit. Then this article which I had just re-read that morning flashed into my mind.

When I thought of the two options: 1) drop everything and drive an hour out of my way for a short visit with this dear old friend or 2) leave several things hanging (urgent but not really that important) while we were gone, the decision was clear. This was a chance to do something good. Not great but good. In the end and although the visit probably did more for me than for her, I was so glad I went. She was sheer inspiration!

In this world of good, it is important to remember that creating the “good” in our own lives is our own responsibility. If doing something, though it may be small and insignificant, for someone every day isn’t on my list, it isn’t a good day! Actually I’d like to see a book called, From Great to Good!

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