Strive To Be A Decent Person Instead Of A Good One
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Politics and Activism

Strive To Be A Decent Person Instead Of A Good One

A different perspective of what kindness really means to us.

Strive To Be A Decent Person Instead Of A Good One
Annaliese Phillips

After logging onto Facebook, the first posts I often see are mass-shared stories of Good Samaritans working in fantastic and diverse ways. Good people give inspiration to the rest of us to be good people, too, and it is quickly embedded into us that sacrificing ourselves for others and the merit of kindness should never go overlooked. As such, we expect our kindness to be reciprocated, but sometimes we are left underwhelmed by those who do not show the same gratitude, leading us to question whether or actions were worth it or not. It is here when the original intention of kindness begins to seem diluted.

Kindness, in its purest form, never begs from others. Being genuinely “good” means that we do the nice things we do because we want to do them. Good Samaritans are known for doing remarkable acts of kindness in extraordinary situations, but the majority of our experiences are more personal and reserved. Some people in this world are truly altruistic and unfettered by unsatisfying reactions to their good deeds no matter the person. I am not always one of those people. Honestly, you are probably not, either. So how far should we strive to be “good” people? Should we consider striving to be “decent” people instead?

If your personal philosophy involves striving for nothing short of excellence, “decent” sounds like a defeatist term that is very close to “average,” at best. When you think of someone who is “decent,” you’re thinking of someone who is simply a little more than tolerable. Decent people may or may not be genuinely “kind,” and they may or may not be the self-sacrificing Samaritans you look up to, either. In other words, “decent” people are fine, but they are not impacting.

However, there is a reason why I feel the same way when people say they are “good” people as I do when people describe themselves as “wise.” Such descriptions should speak for themselves, for one. My friends and family are good people, but whether or not I am a good person too depends on what someone else considers “good.” To some, I am. To others, I am not.

Most importantly, goodness never reaches a saturation point—in the same way that learning and growing wiser is a lifelong process. We should always try to be as good as we can be, but we should also reflect with ourselves just why we want to do the things we do. Are we truly being nice, or are we trying to prove something to ourselves? It is perfectly okay to admit to ourselves what we sometimes really want, but kindness without honesty and humility is nothing.

“Decency” acknowledges the merit of good deeds while also acknowledging the honesty of human behavior. It acknowledges that going out of your way for others is not always a route you should take for your own sanity and that some people are simply not worth it. “Decency” acknowledges that sometimes you are wrong about yourself, but you respect yourself enough to let it improve you instead of demote you as a person. You can be decent and still do great things for others, but humbling yourself allows you to do good things because they’re good, not because you’re good. Most of all, decency gives you the humility to know that you will never stop learning how to be an even better person than yesterday. “Good” is terminal, but “decent” allows growth.

Calling yourself a “good” person is not a bad thing, but search within yourself with what it means to be a good person. Do not be afraid to admit to yourself that sometimes you want your kindness or altruism to reap a certain benefit. Similarly, do not feel obligated to be kind in situations that may hurt you in the long run. Be honest and open with your intentions and your personal desires, because sometimes you absolutely have to put yourself first. If you let your actions speak for you and you are true to who you are as a person, your decency will be more than “decent” in the eyes of those who count.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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