By Cathy Eck
“Unawakened people are victims of their public virtues. I don’t know anything more painful than trying to be ‘good.’ And I don’t know anything more to be avoided than ‘good’ people; they are so bad.”
“The Power of your Supermind,” by Vernon Howard (p. 151)
The Need to Be Good
Vernon Howard understood the philosophy of the ancient masters. He was a tough teacher. He would expose a person’s need to be good without hesitation or fear of criticism. People were shocked when the same behavior that always got them approval was suddenly exposed by Vernon as evil.
I began to question the notion of goodness when I married into a family with a different culture and religion from my family of origin. Suddenly, what was good in my family was now labeled bad. But Vernon set me straight. I wasn’t bad; I was only bad in the false good eyes of those who judged me. Goodness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
My family experience caused me to study world religions. How could the definition of good vary so widely between cultures, religions, and nations? The need to be good is nearly impossible to fulfill unless you happen to perfectly fit like a glove within your family, religion, and culture and you never venture out into the world. But to me, that felt like prison.
The Root of the Need to be Good
Often people trap us in their false definition of goodness with guilt, shame, or fear. People love power because it gives them the right to impose their beliefs on others. We stay in their trap until we clearly realize that their definition of good is just plain false. Those who label us bad steal our power until we take it back. When we realize that their definition of good is a lie, and consequently has no power, we become free of their false authority and their false definition of good.
If we believe them, we’ll do things we don’t want to do; or we’ll adopt a fake good personality that pleases them. If we reach the boiling point, we’ll be bad just to prove them wrong.
The Bible Gave Cultural Rules
People who are blindly good can’t see their own cognitive dissonance. For example, they insist that the Bible is the absolute word of God but then they join the military and go to war, neglecting that the Bible said, “Thou shall not kill.” They are sure gay people are destined for hell. But they accumulate vast sums of money and ignore the fact that Jesus said the rich have a hard time getting into heaven. They are highly selective about what they honor within the Bible.
They are not really following the Bible, they are following someone’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, someone’s definition of good that they claim to have found in the Bible. If people actually thought about their personal definition of good, they would discover that they blindly borrowed it from authority figures in their life.
The leaders in the Bible lived by their own cultural rules; and they expected others to blindly follow them without question. Dictators, bullies, religious leaders, and people who intend to win at all cost do the same thing today. They live in denial of their own inner evil because they expertly project it on to opponents and followers. There is nothing worse than being around someone who is sure that their false notion of goodness is the right one, especially if you aren’t one of their group. When two different false definitions of goodness meet, things can get pretty ugly.
What is true goodness? According to the ancient masters, true goodness starts in the mind. One was not be considered good even if they did something good unless they did it with a pure heart. Consequently, doing something out of guilt, shame, or fear did not make one good. It made them fake. The highest level of goodness was unconditional love for everyone; and sadly, religious people are often the worst at unconditional love because they don’t love those of other religions.
The Need to Be Good
Socially good people do the right things because they are programmed to, not because they want to. As Vernon said, there is a lot of badness under that kind of good. When we need to be good; we are avoiding our shadow. But that shadow or badness is not who we are.
We were born good; and we had to learn to believe that we were bad from some false authority. That is why we can let the belief (or lie) go that we are bad making it easier to let go of our false goodness.
To remember our true goodness, we have to clear our mind. Vernon was right. Trying to be good is very painful, and it isn’t necessary. What needs to go are all the beliefs that sit below the need to be good. We only need to be good if we think that we are bad; and therein lies the flawed belief. The need to be good is like a rock that people rarely turn over when letting go.
The need to be good covers our deepest fears. The need to be good keeps us from letting go or hearing the truth of life. The need to be good strips us of the joy of being ourselves and the delight of having authentic relationships. We only need to realize that when we let the need to be good go, we don’t become bad. In fact, we lose our false badness, and we become truly good, authentic, and spiritually alive.
More on this topic from on the Dark Side of Positive Thinking.