Being good has cost: when you sacrifice yourself, you are the one who will lose out.
The deal I made myself to be a ‘Good Boy’ cost my voice, my sense of wonder, and my self worth for most of my adult life. Brennan Manning
For goodness sake. The good life. Being a good boy.
Good is embedded in our culture. For many of us, it is something that we aspire to be.
But being good can be a bad thing. Being good has cost: when you sacrifice yourself, you are the one who will lose out.
True goodness is about character, choices, motivations and values. But good is relative. In an oppressive political regime, you are good when you serve the will of the dictator… or the President. In an indulgent, materialistic culture, you are good when you serve yourself. In an alcohol home, good is how you keep the peace.
What value, then is goodness?
Growing up , I was a Good Boy… I was a real life Boy Scout. I even have the badges to prove it. Being good is a good thing, but for me it was a way to bring peace to my own heart. I made a deal. I wanted to feel peace rather than face the turmoil of what it meant that my father loved alcohol more than his family. When you feel that you have no other choice, sometimes you settle for being good.
I settled for being a Good Boy, but for the wrong reasons. I pretended so that I could keep the peace.
I was good so the voice of depression would be a little quieter. I was good so I could feel a little more loved. I was good because the only other alternative was being bad. I was good because I wanted to gain control. Control of my own emotional darkness, my questions, my confusion, my imperfections. Being in control felt easier to live with than being real.
And bad was too bad to bear.
When I was born, they looked at me and said
what a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy…
We’ve got these chains that hang around our necks,
people want to strangle us with them before we take our first breath.
Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same,
when temptation calls, we just look away.
Bare Naked Ladies
Good can keep you in chains. It can keep you too young, when all that you want to do is grow up. It can lock you in a prison inside of yourself. A prison of expectations and rules made to keep the peace.
And good can haunt you, because how can you accept the other parts of yourself that just don’t fit the rules? If you want to grow up, you have to accept that no, you are not good all of the time. You have to accept that peace is the not the path to goodness. Sometimes being good means that you are in turmoil, because the truth may just destroy your peace.
Four rules that will keep you in chains and what you can do about it
In an unhealthy home, rules can keep you in chains. Each home can have it’s own variation of the rules, but they go something like this:
1.Don’t speak – Speaking up is a risk that you might just be honest. And telling secrets will upset other people. Secrets have power, so be quiet because no one can tell the truth because the truth is too dangerous.
2.Don’t change – Stay the same so that you are predictable, so that you do not rock the boat. Stay the same so that you are under control.
3.Don’t trust – Other people are unpredictable. Other people are different. Other people can hurt you. So stay quiet, be good so that you can stay safe.
4.Don’t feel – Feeling is admitting that you don’t always feel good. Feeling anything is dangerous because your feelings are unpredictable, messy and cause other people trouble.
Sometimes being good means that you need to break the rules
Growing up, I got it wrong. I had two sides to my personality: being good and being a rebel. Publicly I was good, but privately when no one was looking, I rebelled. I rebelled against myself, against my own need to keep the peace and to keep it all together. Being good for the wrong reasons can be exhausting.
There is a way out of being good. No, it’s not in being bad. Being good is about taking a breath and breaking the rules.
Today, I invite you to break some rules with me. Get a pen and a paper and shatter the glass. Pour it out. Admit all of your beautiful weaknesses, your inspiring indiscretions and your free flowing failures. Go ahead, you won’t wreck anything. Admit to yourself that you aren’t good… and that is good!
The path to being good is not peaceful and it is certainly not made of rules that you need to keep. You learn that you don’t have to keep the peace, follow the rules, or do what other people think you should do. Being good is not found in being a good boy.
You don’t have to rationalize. You don’t have to make excuses. You don’t need to be perfect or hide. You can be yourself.
Good is about being yourself. Good is when you take a risk. Good is when you are honest. Good is when you cry and make a mess that other people may not know how to clean up. Good is when you are good enough.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Jori Samonen