You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. —Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
Once, I was talking to my father about religion and faith and his conversion to Christianity, and he told me that he believes what he believes because it’s the way to know he is doing right. He said, “Everybody thinks they’re a good person.” Being fundamentalist, for him, ensures he is good.
And I remember thinking, Is that true? Does everyone think they’re good inside?
I don’t think it is. Sensitive people, people who have open, desperate hearts, often feel like they’re shit at life. People who have been abused don’t think they’re good, because they blame themselves for abuse. The church is really good at getting kids young and telling them how un-good they are so they don’t get prideful and have too much self-confidence, because self-confidence might cause them to start asking some hard questions that lead them away from an emotionally abusive church. (Not all churches are emotionally abusive, mind you. Just some.) Often, the people who are goodest feel like the baddest people alive.
I grew up with this stinky shadow always telling me how much I sucked. I don’t know how she got in there. A shaman I visited had some ideas. But yeah, all I wanted was to be good, and to do right, and this stinky ugly shadow of mine told me how much I missed the mark every frickin’ time, and kept me from being happy and living in wholeness.
I got cleansed of that bitch. I took action, I did a lot of prayer, I—if you want to know it, and you don’t turn away—gave it to my honeypie, Jesus, who did all kinds of healing magic ’cause you know he’s a Magic Man, that’s what he is, that’s the thing he does most of all in the Bible, is heal people of their ailments when they ask, and it’s the reason I started turning to him and asking for help. Because I couldn’t afford the Shamans in Arizona and all the other kinds of local healers who were supposed to help me, and a lot of people just put you on drugs that numb you out. Jesus is frickin’ free, and the Truest Being that ever lived, and he heals, but if you don’t want to believe that, well then just stay in your darkness.
But moving on.
We all want to be good, but we don’t always know how to recognize goodness, because we see a lot of bad, and some of us, who have been treated like crap a lot of our lives, don’t trust the good because what we thought was good didn’t really turn out to be so good.
So here are some ways to recognize goodness, if you’re after it, if you want to be in a place of trust and completeness rather than living in dark corners of your heart and mind.
When you are in the presence of someone good, she or he does not have an inner hostility they’re always whipping around to pull you down. This does not mean a safe person can’t get angry, honey. If you’re being an asshole, a safe person who is with you can get angry, and any good person with self-respect is going to put your ass in its place when it needs to stand back. But a safe person is a person you can turn to who won’t judge you, or berate you when you’re honest and vulnerable. This person listens. This person doesn’t give unsolicited advice. This person doesn’t say, “Well, you should have….” Or, “You should….” Oh my God, if you are in this situation, people, when someone comes to you with fear or woundedness or a deep questioning in their heart, and they just need a place to rest and someone to listen, and you start fucking throwing out the word should? You are not a safe person. Move the fuck out. Go away.
A safe person energetically holds you, but he or she cannot make you face all your fears, or save you from life or from being you.
A safe person doesn’t suffocate you, but gives you room to breathe. Not so much room you get lost, though.
A safe person is empathetic. Intuitive. Sensitive to your needs. Feeling and caring, but not so much that his or her emotions are taking over the whole room, and there is no space for your own.
2. Communication (WordPress really hates me trying to use bullet points. Forgive this ugly, asymmetrical sitcha-ation.)
Goodness comes across in communication. What’s in a person’s heart comes out in his or her words.
I want to do some clarification here, because everything in this life is nuanced, and nothing is cut and dry. Or almost nothing is. I’m sure there is something cut and dry but I can’t think of it right now and my head isn’t yearning for a metaphor.
I curse like a fucking sailor on this blog. And there is a difference between words intended to hurt, and words intended to express. Let’s get clear on that. It is the intention behind the words that matters, not the actual words. So my kids are really up in arms about curse words, and I don’t curse around them, but hearing fucking Lizzo in the background curse or some other singer gets them really worked up because someone has told them cursing is wrong. So they can have a complete greasy asshole in front of them speaking in nice language, and then they can have a wildly alive vessel of God preaching about goodness and knowing yourself as a path to greater happiness, and they unfortunately, because they’ve had some bad teachers, think that the greasy asshole is the one to listen to. Maybe all assholes aren’t greasy. You see what I’m saying.
You can feel someone’s intention, and someone’s energy, by the way they speak. There is nothing wrong with passion and deep feeling, and a lot of cursing comes out, simply, when someone is passionate. What there is something wrong with, is an intention to harm or cut someone down. So regardless of what something looks like on the surface, what’s called “profanity,” or what’s called “Godly,” you know inside you what is what. You’re shrewd enough to see what game we’re playing. Trust in what you know and move past the surface of things.
And sometimes assholes don’t speak at all, and that’s a sign too of something you need to listen to.
A person who is loyal, once you’ve established a relationship, does not turn his or her back on you. She does not jump ship as soon as you tell her something she doesn’t want to hear. She (or he) doesn’t have a set of rules about how exactly you should be, and when you don’t subscribe to the rules of how you should be, she’s like, Yeah, I’m out. She’s just there for you, in a really deep way. But this doesn’t mean she’s a punching bag, either, or the rug under your feet. The only person who’s going to respect you for being you is also someone who respects herself, and puts up boundaries when it’s necessary. If you’re being a dick, the loyal person isn’t saying, Hey, come over here, be a dick to me because I’m so loyal you can do whatever you want to me, say whatever you want to me! The loyal person is just there for you, and you gotta respect a person like that, and the way you respect that is with loyalty in return.
If you don’t trust anyone, or you’re really limited about who you can trust with simple things, and no one seems good to you, that means the devil has you, babe. Kick that motherfucker out of your life. He is such a motherfucker and really convincing as shit, the ultimate manipulative narcissist. So conjure up an image of the most manipulative narcissist you know and just start shouting at him and telling him who’s boss, and tell him to get the fuck out, and use the name of Jesus, because the devil hates the name of Jesus, and this will help you along in your path.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which makes today very special.
Do you know that people who publicly proclaim the need for love and peace and unity, and get a wide following doing so, often end up being killed?
And so this is why a lot of people turn away from love and peace and truth, because they don’t want to be killed and isolated. It is much easier to turn toward what is popular and easy than what is true.
That does not mean we need to abide the bullshit. If you know deep down what is right, act from that place. Always, always, always, always, always, always, always.
Your right may not subscribe to someone else’s “right,” unfortunately. You may not agree. But we are not meant to agree, we are meant to love. And each person on this earth has brilliance and wisdom to share, or else we wouldn’t have been made, because no human is a waste of energy. My dear, you are so deeply intended to be here, how could you ever think otherwise? Give me a hug.
Stand in hope. Stand in fortitude. Stand in a yearning for something better, which will come, which is possible, which is happening all around you every day, when you look for it, when you learn how to see.
And that’s how to be good.