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Today I want to talk about what it means to be a good person.
Deep down, I believe we all want to be good people. It’s in our nature to want to help others (to a degree) and society has developed because of the cooperation between individuals.
Our cooperation with each other, however, has a downside.
In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called reciprocity. As humans, we want our back scratched if we scratch someone else’s. For the most part, people do return the favor. But what if they don’t? What if the contributions you make, not only to others but to the world, aren’t recognized and appreciated? Should you stop contributing?
You’ve had an experience like this before — you go out of your way to be nice, do extra work around the home, try extra hard on a work project, etc. No one notices. You feel unappreciated. You were so looking forward to that pat on the back and found yourself quite disappointed when you didn’t get it.
Do you see the inherent problem in thinking that way?
You shouldn’t have had any expectations of reward. Being a good person is your reward for being a good person.
Lately, I’ve been immersing myself in practical philosophy, meaning I’m fighting the never-ending struggle to apply what I learn and live a good life. Living a good life is work — a life where you build a foundation of integrity, mental toughness, and responsibility…all for the sake of having those traits.
In turn, I’m extending what I’m learning and doing in the hopes you follow the same path. I do believe there is a right way to navigate the world, and it has nothing to do with what’s going on in the world. It’s 100 percent inside of you.
Now back to the topic of being good for being good’s sake.
There are few things I hate more than people rudely barking orders at people who work in retail or food establishments. Countless times I’ve seen workers greet customers warmly, only to be met with “grrrr…..ham and cheese no tomato!”
If you’re only nice to people when you’re on display or when the person is of some sort of social value to you, you’re not a nice person. As a general rule, you should be as nice to the maid as you are to the president of a company. Ironically, it is often people who hold themselves in high regard who treat everyone with respect. In reality, the caricature of the rude, rich, and snobbish person isn’t true. Often, it is the mediocre, the lowly, those who have a beef with their own lives who take it out on others around them without regard.
I don’t know how you treat others, but consider whether you’re giving weight to the way you treat people based on who they are. After careful examination, I myself didn’t like what I saw, so I changed my demeanor. Never perfect, but always looking for ways to show others dignity and respect because it’s the right thing to do.
You don’t need credit. You need people in your corner.
How do you keep people in your corner? Give them all the credit. People love being recognized and praised — maybe more than they love anything else. You do, too. But if you can fight the urge to need either, you can become an indispensable asset to those around you.
Why? Because people will always connect you with the idea of their advancement. You’re the one who always helps them reach the next level and …if you’re the key ingredient to the success of everyone around you, your situation will work itself out.
Many think leadership means bravado and charisma. Real leadership means being humble. It means not needing to toot your own horn. The thing about leading by example, getting shit done, and never having to shine the spotlight on yourself? It’s ten times more noticeable than trying to look like a leader.
Are you in a situation where you’ve been working hard to make sure you get the credit? Stop. Just work hard. Let everyone else have the credit. You get the experience, knowledge, and trust of people around you. Credit is fools gold.
Pride is the snake in the garden to your Adam or Eve.
Wanting the world to be fair comes from pride.
Letting problems fester instead of leading them go comes from pride.
Doing the wrong thing because the right thing takes a chip at your ego…pride.
In all avenues, pride says you deserve something you aren’t getting. Philosophy says you’re owed nothing.
It says you have the ability to choose how you feel about anything. It says you can be good when the world isn’t good to you.
If you can learn to swallow your pride, you’ll develop an inner peace and an unshakeable foundation.
One of the hardest things in the world is knowing you’re doing the right thing and living the right way without putting it on display for everyone to know how good of a person you are.
Often, personal development tells you to pump yourself up. Feel important. Shine brightly.
But real personal development tells you you’re insignificant. You’re a collection of molecules among an infinite number of them.
Your sense of importance and need to feel recognized for your contribution can ultimately be your downfall.
To be able to just do the right thing because it’s what you’re supposed to do…won’t give you instant gratification like getting the credit, fame, and praise will.
But you’ll get to look back knowing you lived well. And we often come to find too late that living well was really the only thing we ever wanted in the first place.
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Originally published at medium.com