March 27, 2011
Doing good or doing bad is not a question of comparative returns, it is a question of a lucid choice
I often hear around me “What’s the point?”, “That fellow does not deserve any good done to him. He is totally ungrateful and you can expect nothing back from him”, “And now what?”, “toughen up”, “get real”, etc.
I had never really thought about the point of it but given the number of objections I kept facing, I decided to dwell upon the matter to see whether there was a point and I noted down some of my thoughts for sharing simply my views.
When you do something bad, people are so used to bad things happening in the world that they don’t question it at all. It seems natural to them as they expect it and they will react in the only way they think they can react to it, i.e. they will either be neutral or they will do something bad back to you.
When you do something good on the other hand, the reaction is something that you will not expect and cannot even begin to fathom. Some will be neutral, a rare few will be grateful, an even rarer few will return you that good but most will react negatively. By doing good, you take this majority by surprise and off the expected lines of their trodden known path so they will question your motives and try to prove by all means that there was a hidden agenda. Amongst this majority, some will grow hateful; they will despise you for what they feel as being held in your mercy as gratitude to them is an unknown concept that simply equates to being held captive of a need to return the favour. Some will go to great lengths to prove their point by searching for signs that they may use against you and will dwell on your every communication to try to put some shady light on that deed that you would have done out of simple kindness. Some will question your character, your integrity, will search for the exchange you were expecting in what they see as a transaction and failing finding that exchange will simply label you a fool that has been used and/or abused. Some will jeer at you for having been so gullible and some will feel sympathetic or pity you for being so easy to be taken advantage of.
In time, the good you might have done, can be coloured to make it seem like the darkest evil that you could have ever performed. I have seen it happen even in charity given where it first started out as “oh he certainly did it for the tax reduction” which then progressed on to “he has so much money and all he could do was give some miserable amount, on top of that just within the limits of what is tax deductible and he even wants to keep a control on that, the control freak. With all that money he made ripping off people, of course he had to settle a score with his conscience or at least pretend to have one. He is just a pretender, a liar and a thief. I wish rich people like him would lose all his wealth and then we will see whether he gives a dime when he is a pauper. I hope he rots in hell”. By the end of the transformation (up to the point I heard of it at least), the person was no longer a kind-hearted person giving to charity, he was a black-hearted devil trying to pass off as a good person and whom his fellow human beings wished the worst of evils.
It is therefore easier to do bad than to do good if you set aside the conscience and the morality of it. It is all the more easier if you were expecting something in return for the good you did as you are statistically faced more often by a negative retaliation than a positive reaction. Doing good can take you aback and force you to review your values if you were expecting a positive reaction to the good you did. Does that mean that we should do evil rather than good? Of course not. It simply means that when you do good things, you must be prepared not to receive good in return but the worst of evils and take it with serenity. You do good because this is what you believe in, not because you expect something out of it. You do it because beyond anything, beyond the universal law of karma that calls for harmony and the flow back of what you disseminate within the universe, you do it because you want things to change in the proper direction and believe firmly that the path to that change is by doing a random good deed.
And when all is said and done, if there were just one person whose life you made better by doing something good and who appreciated that, simply, without ever offering you anything in return, it would have been worth all the stream of negative opinions and reactions you would have had to face. For one small candle can shed light into the deepest of darkness and the hope that should remain forever engrained in your heart is that as the flame ignites and lights your path, so will the many other candles that a gust of wind might have blown off on a cold winter night.
As Gandhiji said, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
2 thoughts on “Doing good or doing bad is not a question of comparative returns, it is a question of a lucid choice”
I love this post. It is true that people will hate us for doing good things without strings attached, especially people from big cities. I think people from rural areas are more apt to understand where kind deeds come from. At least that’s been my experience in the USA.
It’s true that doing what’s right is the only choice a good person can stand to make. It’s probably a matter of mirror neurons: Feeling the other person’s emotions in the literal sense.
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I see that you have probably had some first-hand experience on the matter. You are probably right when saying that it is more the case of people from big cities as they tend to be more cynical. Ironically, it is often in big cities that some people can become destitute to the point of no return and it would therefore make more sense that the cities have more of people willing to do good just for the sake of helping, with no expectations other than the bettering of the life of their fellow human beings.
Agreed also for the empathy bit. When you are blessed-cum-cursed with a strong sense of empathy, then you can only do good to others. I state it as a blessing and a curse because it becomes a curse when you find yourself sometimes helpless in alleviating suffering
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