This is an excerpt from the draft manuscript of my upcoming book and is the second in a series of sections that I am posting. You can read the previous excerpt ‘What is Love’ by clicking here.
The Myth of ‘But I’m a Good Person’
Many times, when engaging with others on the topic of spirituality, the essence of love, and cultivating our highest self, people will set aside what I am saying and return to an inner story of “but I’m a good person. I am trying to make the world a better place. I see people in need and I offer my assistance. I have so much to offer others. If they would just listen to me, then all of their problems would be solved. If they would just do what I’m saying, everything would be so much better for them. Why can they not see how loving I am or what I’m trying to do for them? Why won’t they let me help them? Why won’t they let me love them?” I am not here to tell you that this approach is wrong – goodness, and the desire to help, is a beautiful gift unto the world. But there is more to understand about what’s real than just the idea of being good. There’s something deeper waiting for us beneath the notion of ‘goodness’.
First of all, the concept of good gives rise to the concept of bad. It becomes a comparative narrative of opposites that both fail to balance within the center of what’s real. What is ‘is’ what’s real. It is neither good nor bad – it simply is. Our perceptions, beliefs, opinions, etc.; all of which arise from our conditioning, become the stories that we tell ourselves about what is good and what is bad. They inform and influence our relationship with reality so deeply that most of us are not even aware of their impact. It is this lack of awareness that prevents us from seeing reality as it is. What we are seeing and experiencing is a relative reality that is nothing more than a projection of our confused and conditioned minds, rising up out of deeply held assumptions that have never really been investigated or challenged in any meaningful way.
By the moral standards of our modern society, we have some very ingrained ideas of goodness and being good that are actually a reflection of the collective fears and desires that have been instilled as social norms. But if we question these norms in a sincere and earnest manner, we can, perhaps, get a better sense of our real motivations. Many times we focus on doing ‘good’ things in order to earn something in return; finding our way into heaven, winning the love of others, being admired for our actions, etc. We want others to notice our goodness because we are seeking external validation of our perceived goodness and the good that we do in the world. We need the world, out there, to reinforce our internal perception of a ‘good’ self as a way to counter the sense of insecurity and unworthiness that we feel inside.
It is not uncommon to do good things as a way to assuage our guilt in some way – to shield us from our darkness, our fears, our uncertainty and doubt. If we can ground ourselves in our idea that we are a ‘good person’ we can ignore what’s going on within ourselves and distract ourselves from what’s real. We can use the world’s validation of our goodness to gloss over or displace our ‘sinful nature’ – another conditioned notion that has been embedded deeply in our psyche as a result of dogmatic religious views. In other words, we may experience something within ourselves that we don’t like – that we judge harshly as being bad or wrong – and then we try to do something ‘good’ to offset the bad and bring balance to our lives. But the motivation behind actions such as these – no matter how well intentioned – is still grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding of our true nature.
As we awaken and deepen into our understanding of things as they are, we realize that ‘the world’ isn’t out there – it’s in here. We begin to see for ourselves, and quite clearly, that being a good person is an aspect of self-identification that separates us from reality; and that, rather than being a good person, we should focus our attention more fully on being a whole person. A whole person is grounded in a healthy state of loving self-acceptance that allows true goodness to shine through – effortlessly. A truly whole person is the walking, talking epitome of Love in all things. They do not hold anger, judgement, hatred – etc. They have done the internal work necessary to let go of everything they thought they were in order to return to the truth of who they are and have always been. In this state, there is no good, no bad, no right, no wrong. There is only Love, in its truest form.
This inner Love gives rise to kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and so much more. From this place they are no longer trying to ‘be’ a ‘good’ person – they simply embody the traits of what most of us aspire to present ourselves as, and they do so as a result of their own direct experience of being. Or rather the ‘doing’ work that they focus on is all directed inward towards deeper realization, not outwards toward hopes or appearances. This is how we change things for the better – not by getting caught up in our story of ‘self’ or in trying to change the things around us. But by looking inward, shifting our orientation and perception into alignment with what is, and accepting the things that arise – while at the same time working to nudge all things in the direction of love and kindness for ourselves, for others, and for the earth; trusting in the divine, surrendering to the mystery, and being one with all that is. Love, true Love, lives here, in this place.
Another way to approach this topic is to think of love as an orange. Those who are trying to ‘be loving’ – who are wearing a mask of love; a beautiful mask of course, but a mask nonetheless, are like a small child trying to eat an orange without removing the peel. It is hard, bitter, and difficult to digest. It offers very little in terms of nourishment, and the experience of the orange is one fraught with misgivings. “They say oranges are supposed to be sweet and citrusy, why then does my orange taste so terrible”. One who has peeled away their conditioned, confused notion of love has a very different kind of experience, just as you would if you peeled the orange before attempting to consume it. Love is indeed tender, juicy, and sweet; full of life, full of flavor; beyond all conceivables, but we must peel away our conditioned view of love before we can taste Loves true essence. We have to let go of what we ‘think’ ‘love’ ‘is’.
~From the Heart of Bradley