8. We don’t believe that there are rewards for being good.
In general, people do things well if they believe they will eventually be rewarded. That’s the major reason people work hard. But many people don’t believe that goodness is rewarded.
In fact, however, there are rewards:
— Good people have far more inner peace.
— You will trust other people. The cheater never trusts anyone because he thinks that everyone is like him — out to cheat everyone. Not being able to trust is not a pleasant way to go through life.
— People will like — and even more importantly, respect — you more, just as you like and respect good people more.
— You will make more friends. And life is incomparably better with good friends.
— And finally, God will reward you in the afterlife. It isn’t fashionable in our hyper-sophisticated and secular age to speak of the afterlife, let alone about ultimate reward and punishment. But if there is a just God, there is ultimate justice.
9. We have to battle our nature.
To be a good person, most of us have to battle our nature. Among many other things, we are naturally preoccupied with ourselves. Yet, to be good, we have to constantly think about others and how we are treating them.
For many people, there is an additional battle they have to wage — with their natural tendency to be angry. One prevalent example is the angry mother or father who poisons his/her children against the other parent after a divorce, thereby often irreparably damaging both the children and the other parent.
10. “I’m a victim.”
I suspect that more people than ever before, in our society and in many others, walk around thinking of themselves as victims. Victimhood status is actually cultivated.
Now, the truth is that most people are victims. Very few of us have been entirely fairly treated by life. The problem, however, is that people who see themselves primarily as victims will rarely do any good, and many will do evil: “I’ve been mistreated by others,” the thinking goes, “so I don’t owe anybody anything.”
11. Few people were raised to be good people.
Parents raise children to be good students, good athletes, to have high self-esteem and with myriad other goals. But few parents put character first. For decades, I have asked parents whether they would be angrier at their teenager for smoking cigarettes or for cheating on tests. You can guess the overwhelming response.
12. In our formative years, the least impressive are rewarded.
In our high-school years, which kids seem to be the most rewarded? The ones with the best character? The kindest? Of course not.
During some of our most formative years, we see the best-looking, the most athletic and the coolest kids get the rewards. We see unimpressive guys getting the prettiest girls, and the prettiest girls getting the most attention — irrespective of their character. And the kids in cliques seem to have the most fun.
Little do we know that these traits won’t be rewarded forever. But it leaves a lasting impression.
13. We have psychological blocks.
As if the first dozen obstacles were not enough, there is an additional one that seems insurmountable for many individuals — psychological issues.
But the operative word here is “seems.” Even those with psychological problems (and who doesn’t have at least one or two?) can and must try to be better people. And the way to begin doing so is purely behavioral: Act better toward others even before you solve your psychological problems. Otherwise, you will never be a better person, since those problems may never disappear. And here’s the good news: The better you act, the better your chances of also improving yourself psychologically.
The sad irony is that while goodness is the thing that everyone wants most from everyone else, few people want it most for themselves.
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