Character Education, Self Care, Wellness

The price of goodness

A friend of mine just tried acupuncture and it led to a group conversation about the practice. Acupuncture and eastern medicine is based on the concept of balance – balancing hot and cold, yin and yang, strong and weak. We discussed the science behind this concept and my friend said “Science is all about balance.” You know Newton’s law number….ummmm….anyways…for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In these tumultuous times and in LIFE, there is always a result or consequence to our actions. This is a message I seek to teach my own children and my students while desperately trying to remember it for myself. You know, the whole do as I say not as I always do concept!

Sometimes is seems that in spite of our goal to put goodness into the world, evil/negativity/bad wins. It seems that our leaders, people without good intent, selfishness rules the day. That can be disheartening and demoralizing. It can lead us to want to give up and not pay the price of goodness. You see, goodness, doing what is right… costs us. How junky is that?

What is the cost of goodness? Well it depends on the act of goodness. We wear a mask in public – it can embarrass us, frustrate us, make us feel trapped, make us feel like we can’t breathe, or that we just don’t want to breathe our own stinky coffee breath. Not a huge price to pay particularly. Click here for more details on the importance of wearing masks. We can stand up to injustice – it can cost us friends, family, jobs, and more. A much heavier price to pay. On the flip side, not demonstrating goodness has a cost. We refuse to learn from somebody else’s perspective and stick to our own point of view – it can cause friendship/family loss, anger, resentment, and isolation. So – it can seem like there isn’t any way to win. Why is there a cost to goodness that can be equivalent to the cost of not doing what is kind, admirable, loving, selfless, thoughtful, or noble?

Why? Because everything in nature, science, faith – seeks balance. Newton was right…for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But Newton didn’t take that concept far enough with this one principle. You see each time there is an action – it MOVES the opposite and equal reaction somewhere. If I am moving a rock up a mountain – every time I push…gravity pushes back. But as I keep PUSHING – I inch my way up the mountain…defeating gravity ultimately by reaching the top.

Goodness is like this – there is always a force pushing against our attempts at goodness in the world. Those forces can wear us down if we do not acknowledge the cost, accept the cost, and continue to promote goodness IN SPITE OF THE COST. The only way you get to the top of the mountain, is by continuing uphill AGAINST the pull. Against the cost…

So, what does this have to do with educators? With us as people? Well – I think it comes down to the willingness to pay the price of goodness to move ourselves, our students, our families, and our world forward. Educators have this pivotal role in teaching children, tomorrow’s leaders, about the COST of goodness. It is naive to think telling a child “Be good!” solves the problems in their world. Well – what happens when I am nice to the unpopular kid and then I become unpopular (cost)? What happens when I tell the truth about doing the wrong thing and get a consequence for that (cost)? What happens when I give it 100% and still fail the test (cost)?

We must educate our youth on the price of goodness so that they might be willing to PAY THE COST. That they might have the will, the desire, the motivation, the perseverance, to KEEP GOING in the face of adversity based on their innate desire to do good in the world. Some kids enter our rooms already defeated by the harsh worlds they live in and we have to teach them goodness is worth the price. Some kids enter our rooms unsure of what it looks like to find their innate goodness and we must educate them on the cost and rewards of living up to their goodness potential. Some kids enter our rooms aware of the cost and ready, willing, and able to pay it and we must foster a community that celebrates that spirit.

The only way we can do that is by choosing to inject goodness into every action small and large in our world. To make goodness our guiding principle in every action we take. To use goodness to counteract or fix our own human flaws and foibles. To wield goodness as the weapon that can help move us to a better place.

Here are some guiding principles that may help us on our journey:

  1. Seek to understand and to learn.
  2. Think of others before ourselves.
  3. Be resilient and courageous.
  4. Use your words intentionally and thoughtfully.
  5. Stay curious.

I get so tired of paying the price for the times I purposefully seek to do what is right. It hurts, wears me down, and makes me want to stop. I get it…that price…too high at times. I am reminding myself and all of us as educators, parents, teachers, and members of the human family to find a little more change in your pockets to pay the price of goodness. Because ultimately, the reward is looking out from the top of the mountain at the beauty we have helped create with our efforts.

written with contribution from Alexandra Keilen, @aktechteacher