Balancing Your Beliefs With Being A “Good Person”
Being a good person? I’m sure we all think we’ve got it cinched.
But really, how much more effort could you put into being a good person on a daily basis, and moreover, how can you combat these issues? First off, here are some common belief systems that get in the way of what I’ve termed “good personhood” and then there are some solutions you (and I!) can implement – without me telling you where your beliefs should lie – to try to balance good personhood with upholding your beliefs.
Ah, religion. Such a tricky, touchy issue. How does religion promote good personhood, and how does it inhibit it? First off, I want to be clear: I know some perfectly lovely people who are religious, I know some perfectly evil people who are religious, I know some perfectly lovely people who are non-religious, and I know some perfectly evil people who are non-religious. So I don’t think that any viewpoint here “wins.”
Now, I think religion can get in the way of being a good person when religious people only open themselves up to thinking one way, or looking at things from their own viewpoint. It’s like, when you take God out of the equation, things become very scary and unknown and trying to use logic in a world without a god is too difficult a task. This makes relating to non-religious folks, or folks of a different religion, very… interesting? Yes, we’ll go with interesting. Also – and this is a generalisation so take note – a good portion of the religious people I know tend to think that you can only be a good person if you believe not only in God, but in their definition and ideation of God.
Now, on to non-religious folks. Non-religious folks, by and large (again! Generalization! For shame) write off religious people as not allowing their worlds to operate under “logic.” They think that believing in something bigger and better than a human being – or the universe, or calculus, or whatever their Ultimate Power is – is faulty and flawed. This is just as biased and prejudiced.
The solution: Whether you’re religious or non-religious, realize that the other party has deep and truly logical reasons for believing what they believe. Try not to write them off simply because their idea of what does or doesn’t happen to us after we die might not fit with yours. Because religious beliefs can deeply affect the way we feel we need to live our lives, this one is best dealt with in a very respectful manner. Agreeing to disagree is fine, but if you feel you can’t even do that, it might be best to agree to not even discuss it.
So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there may or may not be this big event coming up in November here in the US (where I’m from) and it involves us all rushing to the polls and voting for Mickey Mouse. Or something like that.
If your newsfeed on Facebook is anything like mine, you’re probably being barraged with requests to be “polite and respectful” when speaking about politics, or with requests to “leave politics off of Facebook” altogether. I’m not going to tell you how to do you social networking (or how to vote – but really, go Mickey!), but politics and life tend to co-mingle more often than we’d like.
I’m not even going to separate this into conservative-vs.-liberal text blocks, because it truly doesn’t matter. This one also comes down to respect. If you’re alive and you’re breathing and you don’t agree with your neighbor, try to gauge the situation. If the person you’re talking politics with has a bright red face and there are little wet droplets coursing down their cheeks… bad sign. Red light. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. If you’re in a discussion or even a debate with someone and you’re both holding your own, you’re both engaging, and they seem to be doing okay, remember to check in with yourself every once in a while. You deserve to be doing all right as well. If you’re feeling some tightness in your chest or a sinking feeling in your stomach, it may be a sign that this discussion/debate isn’t going quite as well as you thought and you’re feeling disrespected.
The solution: Being a good person is just as much about taking care of yourself as it is about taking care of the other people in your life. If you notice yourself becoming upset when talking about politics (or any other subject!), go ahead and extract yourself from the situation.
This one is pretty contentious. Eating animals is such a difficult thing to either defend or to renounce, for me personally.
Anyway, there are a plethora of reasons that it is entirely inappropriate to talk about this one, but one of them is this: diet is an essentially holy thing. We should not comment on one another’s diets unless we are in a position of knowing more about or footing the bill of said diet. There are so many things that go into what a person eats besides what they’re hungry for: what they can afford (obesity through inability to afford more healthy options, anyone?), dietary concerns, allergies, and yes, morals. Point being: stay away from my hamburger and I’ll stay away from your tofu burger.
(Disclaimer: I have not eaten either of these products in years, if ever. I have no recollection of what either tastes like. No jumping down my throat.)
The solution: If you are commenting on someone else’s dietary choices, try to realize that there are many more complicated reasons that they are eating what they are eating than those you know. If someone else is commenting on your choices, be understanding: it may be that they don’t know what they are doing and don’t realize how horribly offensive they are being.
This one is has less grey area, but it still comes down to respect.
Being a good person, and the art of good personhood, comes down to doing not only what is best for yourself, but what is best for this planet. It simply does. Not having any polar ice caps in a few short decades because we “need” all the consumables we use on the daily? Simply unacceptable.
I’m sorry to take such a hard line on this one, but to me there isn’t a lot of middle ground. Taking care of your home is something that is bred into us from a young age – no shoes on the couch, put away your dishes, etc. So why does this same principle not carry over to our long-term home, which we share with billions of other people?
I see people all the time chucking trash out of their car windows. What gives you the right? I mean, maybe an apple core. Maybe. But aside from the quick, easy, and obvious biodegradables, your trash (and I will always wish there was less of it – check this out) belongs in your trash can and nowhere else.
I’ve been known to trace down and run after garbage in the streets, because I really see no point in litter. Maybe we can work together on this one?
There’s a reason for feminism, and it isn’t that women are whiny and need something to gripe about. Being a feminist is more about pushing for equality than anything else. For so long (centuries, lifetimes, all of recorded history), history and the world has been controlled by men, and when big things happened in the world, they were happening predominantly due to men.
That is so ludicrous. At last count, women made up almost half of the population. So why on Earth should we be making less than half the history? When I try to think of powerful women in history, my selections are limited and often tainted by their private lives: think Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and even Marilyn Monroe.
The solution: If history was being fair to women, there would be no inequity between the treatment of women and the treatment of men. This means that it would be a lot easier for women to “make history,” but I don’t even want to have to consider things like that. I don’t want it to be news just because a woman does something awesome, any more than it is when a man does something awesome. I wish, ardently, that feminism was a thing of the past because it was no longer necessary.
But it is. So stand up for yourself (or the women in your life, if you happen to be male). Make history. Help us make feminism unneccessary, outdated, and obsolete. Let’s do it!
How do you balance being a good, understanding person with your strongly held beliefs? Can you think of any other clashes between your “good personhood” and the things you care most about? Discuss with us in the comments!
Written by Becky Havens
Header image courtesy of dragoart.com
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