“One of the Good Guys”

Jesse & John Custer from Preacher #9 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.

Why are people so weird abut human decency?

I never know what to say when my friends ask me whether or not they’re a “good” person, as if they’re some endangered species and being recognized as one is an exception. That’s all benevolence is seen as at the end of the day — a scarce little wonder.

You remember that kid from your elementary school days who was always mocked for being a “goody two-shoes” and never having any temerity to take risks, and practically died at the idea of getting in trouble? I was that kid. I remember once in kindergarten I cried at night after the teacher in class called me out for talking. In fact, I felt so bad about it I gave her a melted cookies-’n-cream Hershey bar to make sure she wouldn’t think ill of me forever.

Anyway, there will always be those complaints about other people excessively praising others during those momentary times when someone helps another and goes the extra mile to just spread some actual human decency. Then we’ll all wonder:
Is it really that bad to point out how some guy in Florida helped a homeless woman to read and then blow it up into some huge news story? Or anyone in need? Since when did it become socially acceptable to always want something in return, a reward for simply not being horrible like everyone else? It’s all harmless, isn’t it? It’s only part of being human.

However, this is just another element of American culture that’s so pathetic it’s actually quite laughable.

The Character Contract

Being good is what society expects of you. It is not a reality. Society expects you to make New Year’s resolutions but in reality most people have quit by March.

Likewise, those people who you may assume call attention to human decency to just appreciate it, but they are actually doing it to make themselves also feel like do-gooders by validating that humanly decent person while also allowing the same desire to be inflicted upon you as you’re continuously hearing the praise. In acquiring this desire you start to yearn to be just like That Decent One, to be one of the Good Guys. You yearn for a world in which you are prominent for your Goodness, leading to you wanting to reject a world in which you aren’t.

Everyone wants to be deemed a Good Person in relation to themselves. We tend to be The Good One occasionally but also conditionally. You see, our childhood was spent believing that if we’re good and kind to others, ultimately that goodness and kindness will be reciprocated.

Another expectation — a desire you place not on your own character but on others’. When you do something that is “good” in reality, you’ll instinctively expect something in return. As you do that, you are signing away the potential death of an essential piece of your character.

Let me explain it in this scenario:

You’re an IB student in south Texas. Once day amidst exam season your friend, also in the IB program, becomes deathly ill and isn’t around to get the notes for an major unit test soon. A few days later they show up, still pretty frail and in a panic, but you save them and lend them your notes to cram with throughout the day until the test. Your friend passes with a high B.

You feel pretty good now — like a saint to be specific. You’re probably expecting your friend to save your ass in return when you can’t get notes for another important test, despite their character.

The next month, circumstances are switched. You have to go out of town because your dad’s uncle’s second cousin once removed died and you missed out on a whole week of studying for your next test. As expected, your friend gives you some crappily taken notes that will make do…until you bomb the test. You find out friend gave the wrong notes.

Now you’re pissed. You begin to start doubting your initial actions. You legitimately wanted to help your friend. Or, at least you thought you did… but you could have done worse. You could have left them to the wolves and they would’ve failed like you did, which would just be their own problem. You should have sought help from someone else. Someone reliable. You’re second-guessing yourself and compromising your thoughts.

Immediately your Characteristic is gone. You failed to realize that the “good” you did your friend was only a special part of your own Character that distinguished you. You failed to realize that returning the favor isn’t your friend’s Character, but your expectation on them.

It also sets a bad precedent. You’ve convinced yourself that Oh, being less terrible didn’t work, so what’s the point? They didn’t do anything for me so why should I take the time to invest in helping them again?

They don’t deserve my Goodness.

Does this thought process sound familiar? How many pieces of your Character have you chipped away because somebody else didn’t turn out to have that same Characteristic as you? Because you said “you’re welcome” for holding the door for someone but they didn’t thank you, because you just got friend-zoned by someone you’d been hoping to date, because nobody seemed to notice or care?

How many branches have you already cut off of the tree you’re growing that is your personality? How much of yourself have you already killed?

Goodness is all relative. You can be good in the eyes of the enemy and despised in the eyes of the repressed common people. You decide who “deserves” your Goodness, based on whether or not that small favor gets returned. We were only raised to have morals, values, and Characteristic. To desire to be exceptional is to do yourself a disservice by erasing all that you have gained during your years of existence.

There is no definite meaning of the word “good”, and longing to be labeled as such makes you antagonistic to a world in which being a good person is normal, not a way of esteeming someone.

Politicians are seen as good people from afar because people assume that anyone willing to dedicate years of their life to public service is naturally good natured until they dare to throw back their altruistic veil and their policies sing a different song.

They say that actions speak louder than words but with no regard for the fact that intentions speak louder than actions. For it isn’t what you do that determines if you’re good but why you do the things you do.

It’s time we end this obsession with achieving a champion-like status for just being a level above sociopathic indecency. In order to truly benefit the world and reach some kind of progress, we need to give up this infatuation with being identified by others as not terrible because that’s when you’re normalizing indecency. Your Goodness is finite; you get to pick and choose who you’re good to, but you don’t have a choice of who gets to be good to you.

And that’s what it all comes down to — choice. It you’re choosing to help someone based on whether or not they’ll help you back you shouldn’t be helping them at all or anyone, for there is one thing that trumps Character above all else — humanity.

Humanity isn’t discriminatory, neither does it hold grudges. It is not a simple personality trait but a necessity. A small portion of humans shouldn’t have to call themselves “humanists”. We should only have to call ourselves humans — it’s a package deal. Even though everyone knows they have a bit of humanity in themselves, fully understanding it takes a lifetime, which is the real challenge.

Goodness and kindness are both short bursts of character that are fragile and quickly die. If you’re not careful, you could die with them.

Humanity is different; it guards your Character and molds it, schools it. It doesn’t care what happens or what others do to it.

It never settles.

It recognizes that change must be made, it is the whistleblower of injustice, and it frees you from the expectations of society. Being just “good” is barely brushing the surface, the bare minimum. It doesn’t always exactly mean being humane. Being “bad” doesn’t always guarantee inhumanity.

But to remain trapped in a universe where everyone’s waiting to be accepted into The Good People’s Club is to be like the intransigent regressive people holding everybody back and standing in opposition to the society we’ve known.

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