The High Price of Being Good
Much of our suffering finds it roots in our relentless obsession with comparison. As humans we can get all caught up in constantly comparing ourselves to other. The ‘other’ is then either ‘better’ or ‘worse’, more intelligent, prettier, slimmer, better looking, more of a success. In fact, very often, ‘others’ have dream lives and it is us who has come up short in one or many ways.
From early childhood we are introduced into this world of duality in which we learn what it is to be ‘good’ and what it means to be ‘bad’. If the cultural norms and family images were not enough to contend with, our entire culture is based on the religious premise that each of us is born imperfect and in sin, desperately in need of something that will make us ‘good’. We needed a messiah in order to save us from our apparently inherent badness.
Whilst it is no longer true that such religious dogmas are a part of our day to day consciousness, it is true to say that among those of us who are walking in the worlds of personal development, healing and alternative forms of spirituality that self-violence is very present. In fact, it is probably within spiritual communities that most self-violence takes place, with the resulting judgments and projections.
Much spirituality can be avoidance of who we are instead of facing life as it is. It is my experience that the process of awakening takes us squarely into the centre of life, whilst we may be hoping that spiritual realisation may help us to transcend life itself, to transcend the mundane or even give us the ability to live a pain free life, in reality it doesn’t. Life always presents us with choices and opportunities to either drop the illusion of defence and open our heart, or do what what we’ve more frequently done, is run, avoid or deny the reality at hand.
When we attach to notions of what is good and proper and measure ourselves against them what is lacking is authenticity or real contact with our relationship with self. When we’re attached to a list of ideal images of who we think we should be then the truth of our relationship with ourselves can never be met – and it is within this deeper truth that the gold, or ‘goodness’, can be found.
How would it be for you if you could in this instant, in this very moment, suspend or drop all of your beliefs concerning right and wrong, good or bad, should and shouldn’t? Do you absolutely know what is good? What is your evidence? What makes you ‘good’? How do you know that?
The process of awakening to who and what we truly are requires courage – it requires the courage to ask difficult questions, and furthermore, it requires courage to actually perceive the answer. What if I were to tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, will even make you good? No amount of money, no job promotion, no particular waistline, or perfecting an asana, mudra or mantra, or a particular mate, spouse or partner will ever make you good. However, most of us are caught up in this very idea that a set of beliefs, ideals, ideas or practices make us good – hence our suffering.
Much of the grasping at what is supposed to make us good is in reality and avoidance of the belief that we are bad. Shaming has been used in our culture for centuries. We’ve been subjected to shaming by parents, teachers and religious authorities over and over again and the notion of ‘goodness’ has run so rampant that it is at the root cause of our wars, infighting and at the root of the self-violence we commit with our words and thoughts about ourselves. So what would happen if you surrendered all ideas of goodness for just a moment, let’s say for three full breaths?
If you’re a woman, what if you were to challenge the millennia of internalised misogyny and actually suspend all of the image you have of what it is to be a good woman? What is you were to cease comparing yourself to other women and furthermore support women in their choices of dress, appearance and lifestyle? What if as a man you were to suspend all of the notions, ideas and images that have been passed down to you about what it is to be a ‘real’ man? What if you could suspend all comparison to other men?
All of the comparison leads to self-violence which results in furthering shame and long term suffering. Once we face what we have held to be bad about us, then we’ll never have to try to be good again – in that there is freedom.
‘Authentically You’ has much more light that any attempt to be good.
When we live a life of comparison and one in which there is a pursuance of what we believe may make us a good person is a life of slavery to an ideal that never produces and lasting results. The high price that we pay is that many opportunities for authentic opportunities for connection to yourself or others is sacrificed to false gods, the gods of ideas of good and bad.