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“The real things haven’t changed. It’s still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Have you ever met someone that you consider to be, or to have been, a really good person? I would imagine that after a few moments of quiet reflection you could probably name at least a few. What character traits do you think describe a good man or a good woman in our soci­ety today? Perhaps words such as kind, thoughtful, generous, giving and unselfish top your list. If so, I would agree - these are traits we would all expect a good per­son to possess, but there's got to be more to it – and there is.

Being generous, kind and thoughtful are certainly wonderful qualities, but I believe a genuinely good man or woman is also defined as someone who knows the differ­ence between right and wrong and choos­es to do what is right. Civil Rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King summed it up well when he said, "Cowardice asks the ques­tion - is it safe? Expediency asks the ques­tion - is it political? Vanity asks the ques­tion - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

Doing the right thing, whether in one's per­sonal or professional life, is not always the easiest thing to do. In the Old Testament, a ruler named King Hezekiah decided early in life that he was going to lead his people by doing what was right in the eyes of God. Even though he was criticized, laughed at and ridiculed, he did not compromise his conviction and consequently went on to be one of Judah's most successful and respected kings.

A good man or woman does not con­cern themselves so much with doing the right thing as they do with being the right person. Actions alone do not reflect a person's intent or motivation so one's good deeds can actually serve selfish ambitions or desires. Although we can not always accurately perceive a person's intent or motivation we can get a pretty good idea by looking at the consistency of their attitude.

The attitude of a good person is characterized by several distinct features.

  1. Desires to help others achieve their goals in life
  2. Is willing to put the needs of others before their own
  3. Demonstrates respect for others no matter their position in life
  4. Helps others without expecting anything in return
  5. Refuses to compromise values for personal or professional gain
  6. Possesses a willingness to forgive when harmed
  7. Is committed to doing what is right even when it is not popular

Being a good person does not mean being perfect - we all blow it at times. It does however, mean that we have the ability to recognize when we blow it and, if necessary and possible, we do what it takes to make it right.

The most satisfying and effective rela­tionships between co-workers, supervisors and subordinates, family members and friends are the result of people who choose to develop the attitudes of a good person.

© Todd E. Linaman. All Rights Reserved.

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