Does the title of this blog surprise you? Did you think the word good was a mistake? Did you think, “Surely, she meant evil“?
No, the title is not a mistake. It refers to something I read years ago by M. Scott Peck, well-known writer and psychologist, author of that wonderful book, The Road Less Travelled. He said that throughout his life-long career as a practicing psychologist, many of his clients asked him, “Why is there so much evil in the world?” But NOT ONE PERSON ever asked him, “Why is there so much GOOD in the world?”
His experience raises the question: Why are we more apt to dwell on what’s wrong in the world and in our personal life, rather than on what’s right in the world and in our personal life? Why do the news media focus on vice rather than virtue, on corruption rather than honesty, on crime rather than good works? One reason they do, of course, is to call our attention to what needs “fixing” in our society. In addition: we tend to find evil intriguing. For example, in John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost, many critics and readers find Satan a more fascinating character than the angels and even God! Evil seems to attract and captivate.
But shouldn’t goodness do the same thing? Instead of wondering why so many people are crabby, shouldn’t we be amazed that so many people are pleasant day after day? Instead of noticing how rude some individuals can be, shouldn’t we be in awe of the kindness we encounter everyday—people speaking respectfully to others, opening doors for one another, helping children or the elderly, giving generously of their time and money, or simply smiling? (One negative consequence of wearing masks: not seeing smiles!)
We must not deny or ignore what’s wrong in the world. At the same time, we cannot afford to allow what’s wrong to overwhelm us. So we must, on a regular basis, notice and appreciate the goodness and beauty we encounter every day. Perhaps at prayer we can start a list: “What’s right with my life right now” or “What’s good in our world” or “Things I am grateful for today.” Then maybe we can share with others the goodness we experience in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, parishes, and larger communities.
As you know, I love history. Why? Because history gives us a perspective on the present. Here are a few pieces of good news based on a historic perspective:
In 1970, barely half the people in the world were literate. Today 86% of the world’s population is literate (males 90%, females 82.7%)… For centuries slavery was a common global practice. Even in the first decades of the United States, slavery was supported and protected by law. Today, slavery is outlawed in most of the countries in the world… Today in many countries, children are more protected by laws than ever before in history… From 1980 to today, global access to water increased from 58% to 91%… In 1962 there were 9,214 protected nature reserves in the world. Today there are over 200,000.
Citing examples of good news must not lead to complacency. Though slavery was outlawed in 1863 in the U.S., some states enacted laws to discriminate against “former slaves.” The recent global demonstrations against racism attest to the fact that we are still dealing with residual injustices of slavery and its aftermath. Similarly, though we’ve increased the number of protected nature reserves worldwide, we need to improve their quality and biodiversity.
As Christians, our faith is based on the everlasting Good News of God’s unfailing love for us. During this time of so much bad news, we must not forget in whom our faith resides. So, this week take time to notice, pray over, contribute to, and talk about some of the good things in your life and our world.
What are some of the things that are good and right in your personal life and in the larger world?
Do you ever feel the need to take a break from the bad news you see and hear everyday? If so, how do you take your break?
Jesus encountered a lot of bad news during his life. What things did he do to not let bad news overwhelm him?
Our song today is an old hymn (written in 1864) called “For the Beauty of the Earth” sung here by the Mike Curb Congregation. Enjoy the words, the voices, and the pictures!
I welcome you to share some of your thoughts with us today!