Are People Basically Good?

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This week I had a conversation with an acquaintance that really got me to contemplating where we are in our world today. In my conversation, the woman shared her view that she was reluctant to travel anymore because so many people wanted to do harm to others. As I inquired further, thinking she was referring to those with anti-American ideologies, I discovered that she was talking about people in all realms of life.

She revealed that she felt about half the people in the world today were intent on doing harm to others. I shared with her that I felt we weren’t living in the same world because this was not my experience at all. In my experience, people are basically good and it is the rare individual who wants to harm others. I could go so far as to say, no one at their core truly has an intention to do harm, but that’s a deeper conversation about how fear and ignorance lead us astray from our true nature.

Here I’d like to address how we are influenced by what is put in front of us by the media, and perhaps politicians. If we read the news we could easily begin to think we live in quite a dangerous world. Instead I prefer to look at what I actually see every day. What I see is the goodness of people revealed moment by moment, day by day.

If I drop something, someone will immediately be there to pick it up and help me. If I’m lost and need directions, someone will help me. If I fall, people will rush in and ask if I’m okay.

Yes, we do live in busy times and we will find those who will yield to indifference, but we will find so many more who care and want to do good.

In my travels around the world, I have found the same thing. Most people aren’t caught up in the various things we read in the news. Most people want to take care of their families, spend time with their loved ones, and to provide a fulfilling life for themselves. This has been universally true wherever I’ve visited.

I have yet to find a group of people, whether defined by religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, or otherwise, who don’t reflect this same basic goodness. That’s not to say that there aren’t individuals within each group who have gone greatly astray, but the vast majority reflect basic goodness.

I recently heard a politician speaking about how terrible crime is in the United States and how it is a major problem to be addressed. This made me wonder since, statistically, crime rates are reportedly at historic lows. It reminded me how the world we experience is so dependent on the lens through which we view it.

The invitation today is to remember the basic goodness of human beings rather than what is often reflected to us daily in the media and sometimes by politicians. How we see the world is not only revealed in what we experience, but also in what kind of world we are creating for the future.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole offers spiritual coaching to individuals and groups who want to create and live extraordinary lives. For more information, go to gregorytoole.com.

3 Comments

  1. Spaniardviii says:

    Romans 3:10-12
    10 as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away; all alike have become useless.
    There is no one who does what is good, not even one.

    The real good is based on God’s character for He is the model of goodness. No one seeks after God unless the Lord starts to convict them of their sinful behavior so that they may repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and savior so that they may receive eternal life. People show good yes, this is true but it is only a surface of goodness. If you and another person get into a situation where one has to die for the other to live I guarantee you that the other person’s goodness has redirected to himself and would rather you die and him. A Christian in the other hand is not afraid to die and will rather you live than himself because for the Christian if he lives he can continue to do God’s will and if he dies he will be with Jesus Christ forever….win win situation. Without Jesus there’s no hope but with Jesus there’s hope…eternal life. Jesus said in John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life no one can come to the Father except through Me.

  2. If I’m not mistaken, ‘total depravity’ is the idea that we’re all sinners. Sometimes people take it to mean that given half a chance, we’d all chose to do rotten things to each other, steal from our bosses, cheat on our taxes, disregard the law and beat each other up because we want what they have. But you’re right in that we don’t see that. We see people open the door for others, pick things up, point out a lost wallet or cellphone without helping themselves to the cash or the minutes on them. And we also see some people try to steal from their bosses and get caught on minor possession charges all the time. I think that people are basically good in so far as society has set up common-sense rules for their safety. Some people are disinclined to follow them because it’s their nature to go against authority and they might view the rules as over-reaching. But we’re certainly not like the pirates on Tortuga or some wild out-law filled city on the frontier; people aren’t out to get you (particularly if you aren’t an easy target.) When travelling, if you take precautions, you’ll probably be pretty safe. But if you throw money around as if you don’t care, then you draw the wrong sort of attention. Remember – low-hanging fruit is always the easiest to pick. So don’t put yourself in such a position and you’ll likely have a great time.

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