Nobody’s Perfect

I have a friend who, when I remind her she is a good person, always says, “Sometimes.” Wrong! A person who is a good person is a good person even when they do things they are not proud of. (OK, of which they are not proud.)

The statement “sometimes” implies that a good person can never be less than perfect, or they aren’t good.

This time of year we are prone to reflection — Christmas, Advent, new year’s resolutions — and those reflections often turn to the areas where we are weakest. That can lead to seasonal depression. It’s ok to think of improving ourselves, but let’s not forget to remember our virtues as well as our vices. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good person!

Consequences

First, thanks to all of you who viewed my last post. I have been remiss in posting for a while, and I can see that people just don’t look for something they know won’t be there. I’m back on track now and, although the new year is still a ways away, I’m resolving to post more often now.

When I was a boy, I was an avid reader of Sunday School papers. They were age appropriate, and always had a story in them. The stories were pretty formulaic with a plot line like this:

  • Young person is faced with a choice (help little sister, or go to football practice).
  • There is a danger of a negative consequence for making the right choice (help little sister, don’t get to play in the game).
  • Young person makes right choice, and by some miraculous circumstance avoids the negative consequence (gets to play in game anyway).

That plot line is just plain wrong. We always bear the consequences of our choices, even when the choice is “right.” Put simply, if I drive my car into a ditch, the car will be damaged whether I was swerving to miss a pedestrian, or simply being inattentive.

I was reminded of this truth recently when a student who had done poorly in class reminded me the reason for her poor performance was she had been taking time to support her family during a crisis, and wasn’t that the right choice to make. Yes, I said it was the right choice to make, but you still have to bear the consequences. To a very large extent, virtue is its own reward, and may be all the reward you get.

I recently told my Master of Public Health students that you will not know if you are truly virtuous, until you suffer negative consequences from making the right choice. So long as you are rewarded for your right choices, you won’t know if you are being “good” just because it pays off.

I wish I hadn’t been so influenced by those Sunday School papers. It wouldn’t have been so painful to discover that good choices aren’t always painless. They aren’t, but they are still worth it.

Not much humor in today’s lesson, but stay tuned!