Being a Good Person is a Paradox
A lot of my communities are in upheaval. The current political climate is having everyone examine themselves and the people around them. Social media has become a place for heated comment exchanges.
I said something to a friend that I ended up repeating to a lot of people this past week. It’s short and to the point, and it’s what people need to hear.
“The only thing required to be a good person, is to know that you are not a good person.”
Think about someone you consider to be a good person. When confronted with having a negative impact on someone, what would they do?
I’m imagining they would first listen, really understand what they said. Then they would reflect it back to you in a way that has you feel heard and understood. After that, they would take responsibility. And then of course there’s the essential step of saying what they will do in the future so that it doesn’t happen again.
Now think about someone who’s only interested in maintaining the appearance of being a good person. When confronted with having a negative impact on someone, what would they do?
I’m imagining they would first dodge responsibility (“It wasn’t me”) and blame someone else. Then they would explain their true intent (“That’s not what I meant”). After that would come a justification (“And even if I meant it, it’s not that bad anyways.”).
Nowhere in there is any responsibility, and there definitely isn’t any change in actions they will take in the future. Because, after all, why do you need to take different actions if you didn’t do anything wrong in the first place? Besides, vowing to do things differently is basically admitting you did something wrong.
Being a good person is a paradox. All that’s required to be a good person is to admit when you are not a good person. It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but if you try to be a good person by denying all of the bad things you do and have done, that actually has the opposite effect: people see you as slippery and unable to take responsibility.
What should you do instead? Step right into the sticky situation. Stand in the spotlight, be accountable to those that you’ve harmed. Listen to the impact you had, and reflect it back so they know you heard them. Vow to do differently in the future by specifying exactly what you will and won’t do again.
Is there something that you’ve been avoiding accountability for? Something you just haven’t been facing?
- What did you do?
- What was the impact?
- What can you do in the future?
Once you know the answers to these three questions, go tell the people who were impacted. Let them know you’ve heard them and you have a plan. And it may not be the end of it, there may be more pain and impact to hear before it’s all over. Be ready to put yourself in the spotlight again. Be responsible for anything else that they say. You will notice a tangible release of tension once everything has been resolved. Don’t stop until you get there.
What did this open up for you? Where have you been avoiding being responsible and accountable, and what new actions will you take now? Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com
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