I have an affinity for mayonnaise with olive oil. Think about it: a regular turkey and cheese sandwich goes to the next level with a little olive oil mayonnaise. Seriously. It goes from being average to being really good. And the thing is, you don’t really notice the mayo unless it's not there. You don’t take a bite and think, Wow, what great mayonnaise! No, you take a bite and think, That’s a good turkey and cheese sandwich! The mayo is there in the background, making everything better without stealing the glory from the main ingredients. Why? Because it’s good.
Goodness in a person is a little like olive oil mayonnaise. It makes life better without demanding attention. Astute people will notice it and may even point it out. But the purpose of goodness is not to be praised by others, but to help others.
Doing good is simply helping someone. Making it a part of everyday life takes doing good one step further to being good. This requires awareness of those around you, caring about their needs as much or more than your own. Caring means demonstrating it. When you see an opportunity, take it. Don’t withhold it when it’s in your power to help. It can be as simple as holding a door open for a stranger, assisting at work when it’s not required, offering a ride to someone, or sharing a meal.
True goodness exists for the benefit of others. It is not a show of virtue. Doing good things in order to impress others undermines the very meaning of goodness. Many authentic acts of goodness go unnoticed by everyone except those on the receiving end. That’s okay. A light in the darkness shines on its own. Whether one person or a million see it doesn’t matter. The point is not the adulation you receive from others because of your goodness. The point is that goodness shapes you into a better person. If you have to brag about your goodness, then it has spoiled. Your mayonnaise is way beyond the expiration date and what should be a good thing now tastes bad. But true goodness makes everything “next level.”
Common decency is not so common these days. That’s because people are a conflicted mess of self-serving attitudes, identity confusion, and internal turmoil. Even so, a surprising percentage of people respond to basic goodness. It’s like a flame that lights a bigger fire. If you’re good to someone else, they are more inclined to be good as well. Of course, some won’t, but that’s their problem, not yours. Lighting that fire of goodness by displaying common decency inspires more warmth and light. It also wins people over to your side. True good deeds are like seeds, growing into a garden of friendships.
To instill goodness into your life, start within. If you start with exterior measures of goodness, you’ll fall into one of several traps. If your goodness goes unnoticed, you’ll likely fall into resentment. Don’t others see how much I’m doing for them? Why don’t people appreciate everything I do? And just like that, your attempt at goodness turns into bitterness.
Or you might receive the full attention you think you deserve. Admirers might throw a banquet to give you an award, shout your praises all over Twitter, and make you a reality show star. I earned this fame because I do better things than other people! And just like that, you’re deep in the pit of pride and self-righteousness. And you probably don’t know it.
Or you might realize that most people are not as good as you. And then you might begin letting them know it. Why can’t you be more like me? You’re going straight to hell! And just like that, nobody wants to be around you. You have set your own trap of judgmentalism and walked right into it.
Much of it is simply being nice. Being nice expresses itself in attitude, words, and deeds. When you treat others the way you want to be treated, even when they don’t return the favor, you position yourself to receive better treatment from others. Cruelty destroys people, but kindness is its own reward. When you are nice to people, you avoid arguments, animosity, and anger. A kind word sweetens people’s moods, relieves the pressure they might be feeling, and encourages goodness in them. At worst, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you were decent and kind, even when others don’t respond. At best, you influence others to be kind, cultivating an atmosphere of goodness.
Goodness is a bit of an odd thing in that it comes not so much when you focus on it, but when you focus on others. You’re pursuing it and you’re aware of it, but you’re concerned less about your own goodness than what you can do for others. The motive is pure, which only comes from a place of purity. In order to achieve goodness, you must first pursue purity of heart. Then the good things you do are not just doing good, but being good. The honor you seek is that which you can show to others, not what you can obtain for yourself. This starts by simply asking yourself what you can do to help that person next to you, doing it, and looking for the next opportunity.
Open your eyes to the opportunities around you. They are there, waiting for you to take advantage of them. Do some good and before too long, you will be good.