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Doing Good: Not Just for a Goody-Two-Shoes

Updated on December 30, 2012
The cover of the anonymous 18th century children's book, "The History of Goody Two-Shoes," which popularized the title phrase.  (Public Domain)
The cover of the anonymous 18th century children's book, "The History of Goody Two-Shoes," which popularized the title phrase. (Public Domain)

No, it doesn't brand the words "Party Pooper" to your forehead.

It's a good thing to do good. That is to say, it's never, ever a bad thing. Doing good changes the world, and ourselves, in ways we can't see or ever imagine.

A lot of people are afraid of being a "goody two-shoes" -- that is, having such a clean, straight-laced persona that one's life is boring and bland. On that note, if someone's life is too "together," perfect and squeaky-clean, and the person claims not to have any vices, you have to wonder whether it's sustainable or even trustworthy--thus, the negative connotation of a Goody Two Shoes. On the whole however, there's nothing wrong with the desire to be a benevolent, helpful, pleasant (that's rare these days, isn't it?) member of society.

This kid is going down a "not so nice" path.
This kid is going down a "not so nice" path.

Why goodness has fallen out of fashion...

If you're in the West (or, more and more, other parts of the world), you live in a youth-centric, youth-obsessed culture. The media pretty much panders to (or purposefully crafts) young peoples' desires and attitudes, and as those young people grow up, those attitudes come to define a society, a coherent national "mood." And, one of the attitudes that the media sells the hardest is rebellion.

Rebellion is particularly popular among young people; it's part of coming-of-age to shun the "good little boy/girl" image. Remember when you started becoming interested in "adult' things and laughing at dirty jokes? It becomes "cool" to reject things that are too innocent and embrace edginess and rebellion. To a certain extent, it's not very harmful, but it becomes harmful when common decency goes out the window. People disdain those who are older, wiser, or hold authority. Someone drops something in the street, and nobody cares to let them know. Seldom is a door held for others when entering or leaving a place. Seldom are simple thank-yous exchanged; people take favors good nature for granted. Some will even regard a nice person as stupid!

Disclaimer: I'm a young guy myself. I don't necessarily think "the media" is some big bad monster with a deep thunderous voice who commands "All ye, CONFORM! Or...ELSE!" I like being young and embracing those aspects of modern style and pop culture to which I relate most. But I can't relate to unkindness--I've always felt good about doing good.

Photo Credit: on Flickr
Photo Credit: on Flickr

Another part of it is the combined materialism and individualism of our culture. Take our constant obsession with new shiny objects, couple that with the common sense that "it's all about me and what makes me comfortable at any cost"--and you have a toxic syndrome called selfishness. Suddenly, other people don't matter as much as the things we acquire to show off to other people. And, when we're so focused on instant gratification, we can't see the needs of our neighbors; we short-circuit our own inborn capacity for doing good.

Sometimes the needs of others aren't great: sometimes a smile and a simple "hello, how was your day?" can turn that person's day into a good one. Maybe an old friend or relative you haven't seen in a while would love to hear from you. But it's impossible to step outside of yourself when you're solely focused on your own needs.

Bring the benevolence back in style

Why don't you be the trendsetter? You could be the one who sets the stage for a revival of good will in your community and among your friends and family. Think about it: you're kind to a lonely friend today--maybe you go out of your way to have lunch and hang out with him--and then he's in a better mood. The next day at work, he's a little bit more pleasant and open-minded. He's more social. His coworkers appreciate his unusually extroverted and light-hearted mood. Then, let's say just 8 out of his 30 coworkers are in turn inspired to do good as well. One of them realizes how much she loves her kids and spends a little more quality time trying to connect with them. Another remembers that not everyone is selfish and manipulative, and he gives some pocket change to a homeless person. Yet another one feels encouraged to reopen lines of communication in a stale relationship.

Yeah, OK, corny example. But it works just like that. Goodness is contagious. Think about it: when you're nice to people, it alleviates whatever stress they might be feeling, which enables them to think more rationally and positively--thus increasing the chance that they will do good to others. In this way, random acts of kindness can multiply exponentially and change the world.

Photo Credit: batega on Flickr
Photo Credit: batega on Flickr

Pay It Forward

is an awesome film about the power of individual good will to change the world. Very encouraging, highly recommended.

Here's a challenge for you! Commit to doing good deeds for one different person, every single day, for the next two weeks and see how it changes your life. That's fourteen days. (Alternative challenge: Instead of doing a few small deeds here and there, you could do one big thing for two weeks, like volunteering at a soup kitchen, a senior citizen's center, or working with special-needs children, for example.) Come back here and report your results in the comments. Two friendly warnings: 1) it WILL require you to step out of your comfort zone, and 2) you can't control other peoples' reactions--you're only in full possession of your own good will.

Need some inspiration? Watch:

A fresh, stimulating cup of coffee is a good way of reconnecting with an old friend.   Photo Credit:
A fresh, stimulating cup of coffee is a good way of reconnecting with an old friend. Photo Credit:

Some simple ways YOU can start changing the world today (it's easier than you might think)

  • Smile. It's contagious, it makes others feel good, it makes you feel good.
  • Thank people for doing good to you, and try to return the favor.
  • Apologize when you're at fault for something and make it good.
  • Let a family member or friend know you appreciate them.
  • When you're really feeling it, give heartfelt compliments.
  • If someone asks for help within reason, help that person out.
  • Hug someone.
  • Encourage someone. Limit criticism.
  • Teach somebody something. Look for chances to share your knowledge and to receive more from others.
  • Have a cup of coffee with an old friend, colleague, or relative.
  • Make people laugh and enjoy themselves.
  • If someone drops or leaves something behind, point it out and/or pick it up for them.
  • Talk to someone who's lonely, shy or depressed.
  • Give to the poor and needy. (See resources)
  • Volunteer. Many options available: Nursing homes, hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, church ministries, museums, etc.

If you have more ideas, list them in comments!

Helping the homeless is an excellent way to show concern for the less fortunate.    Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr
Helping the homeless is an excellent way to show concern for the less fortunate. Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr

There's a very interesting story behind this photo. Read about it here: Helping the Homeless

Why not get creative with it?

Two more reminders...

  • Try to do good for the sake of doing good. If you're expecting to be met with a positive response all the time, prepare to be disappointed. That's not the way it works. This is about improving yourself and establishing a life-enhancing pattern for others to follow, if they so choose. If someone doesn't thank you--or worse, is insulted by your benevolence--learn to brush it off and wish them well anyway . You might feel a little put-off in the moment, but don't sweat the small stuff. Realize the bigger picture: you will ultimately improve your life by following this practice. Try to derive simple satisfaction out of the fact that you're making this hurly-burly world a little bit more of a pleasant place, a little more enchanting, a little more beautiful.
  • When you do good to others, without expectations of a reward , you do good to yourself. See how much better you'll feel about life when you make a point of being a positive force in the world. Sometimes, your reward will be the simple pleasure in knowing that you've just improved someone's life. But in other cases, it will open doors for you that you never saw coming. Your relationships will be more fun and fulfilling. People that you meet will easily trust you, because they'll sense that you have good intentions. Even business and career opportunities might open up for you and your professional contacts will increase, as other people realize that you're a trustworthy person with integrity.

All in all, follow the Golden Rule. Treat others as you'd have them treat you, and watch what happens...

Are you a "do-gooder"? Do you make conscious efforts to be kind for others?

See results

Please comment! Take my Challenge, suggest other ways to be kind, explain your answer to the poll, and/or leave general comments!

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    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      duffsmom: Appreciate it!

    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      This is an awesome Hub--your message is a great one and one I wish more people would embrace. Your positive attitude and great writing style is wonderful.

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      equealla: It is a great movie. Haven't actually seen it in quite a while, but I remember feeling inspired for a long time afterward. I'm happy to know my hub is inspirational as well!

      frogyfish: Aww shucks, thanks. :) Glad to know you found my hub educational and helpful.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 7 years ago from Central United States of America

      You hit our 'society' right on the nail and I was pounding with you...then you proceed with lots of POSITIVE and useful suggestions. Great thinking, writing, hub! Glad to be your fan too now!

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I have the movie Pay it forward. When family or friends stay over for a long visit, I usually get them to watch it. Just an amazing story.

      This is a "good" article, and I am sure it will, for a long time to come, still inspire people to remember they are created to be in harmony with the goodness within them.

      Thank you for giving this sparkle of love and hope and goodness. Blessings

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      BumptiousQ: Oh yeah, definitely trying to stack those babies up in my everyday life! You too!

      crazybeanrider: Isn't it amazing how the simplest expressions of kindness work wonders? Kids really seem to get it right a lot of the time. We can definitely benefit from becoming more childlike and simple in our attitudes and relationships. It's so easy when you really think about it! And yes, the more you spread it, the more it gets keep up the "good" work :)

    • BumptiousQ profile image

      BumptiousQ 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Benny, the rewards are most assuredly beyond worthwhile. Stack 'em up!

    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 7 years ago from Washington MI

      This hub is awesome. If more people went out of their way to be kind imagine the world we'd live in. My philosophy has always been pay it forward, as well as my families. It is pretty awesome when you see the kids doing random acts of kindness without expecting something in return. I have been accused of being to kind, maybe so but it is who I am. Something simple as you look nice today can mean so much to someone who is having a bad day, or paying for someones coffee behind you at the coffee shop. I wish there was more kindness going around, but perhaps the more we spread it, the more it will come back. Thumbs Up :)

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      You're right, awesome mantra...

      As for your story, that's incredible, BumptiousQ. I'm certainly glad you did choose the high road, so that I, along with your other fans here, could benefit from your positivity and insight!

      I encourage you as well as myself, and anyone who's reading: keep "doing good." There's no substitute for it, and the rewards are beyond worthwhile.

    • BumptiousQ profile image

      BumptiousQ 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Way to go, Vern! That ain't a bad mantra, right, Benny?

      I won't go into too much detail about a huge challenge in my life 15 years ago, but I will say I was on the bubble for a bit, and things could have tipped toward the shadow side of life. The irony is, had I gone that way a lot of people would have said "hey, I can't blame ya" and "hey, that's understandable, all things considered." But in my heart I knew it would be best for myself and everyone else if I took the high road, even though at times i didn't feel like it. I can't even begin to describe how blessedly correct that choice was...

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Good for you sir!

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Hey, Benny, I am committed! KIND KIND KIND KIND KIND, becoming a mantra for me.


    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Vern: I'm sorry to hear about your breakup. I'm glad you'll take up my challenge nonetheless. I think that especially when it's the hardest and most painful to do good, we have the best opportunity for growth. That's when we need to recognize the opportunity for new life. (At this point, hopefully you aren't thinking what your client said to you...haha.) And remember your worth in this world my friend (which you so eloquently write of)! Best of luck. Feel free to message me anytime.

      Bumptious Q: I like the moniker! You're right; the bad stuff gets more press and benevolence and kindness is rarely spoken of to the same effect. I'd like to see that trend reversed. And you're right--it does last longer.

      Jambo: Yeah; I know firsthand, it can be pretty hard to get along with people who have that mindset. But if you're determined to continue being kind and gracious, you'll be the better man for it in the end.

    • profile image

      jambo87 7 years ago

      I agree, work ethic has really gone out the window, it seems.

      Good point BumptiousQ!

    • BumptiousQ profile image

      BumptiousQ 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I deem you "Benny the Benevolent."...Holy alliteration, Batman, that has a ring to it!

      As you pointed out, kindness (compassion, assorted acts of benevolence, etc) can indeed be contagious. Quite often only the opposite side of the coin gets credit for being contagious -- the violence of mob mentality run amok, Nazism and so on -- but many of us know that benevolence can be contagious as well (and it tends to last longer!).

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Thank you for the challenge. I am in the midst of a breakup, so your challenge is particularly challenging for me when I think of being kind to the woman I love who now thinks she "in love" with someone else. I have no trouble fighting the urge to be unkind, but I tend to be just very neutral, very neutral, and so I could begin thinking of ways to actually be kind without setting myself up, so to speak. I had not even thought about this until reading your hub. My whole focus has been protecting myself. So THANKS for the challenge. and I won't say what a client said to me once, "If you think I need one more #$%@&* growth experience, you can go to ...."

    • BennyTheWriter profile image

      BennyTheWriter 7 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Thanks for the read man. I can actually relate a lot to that "distant" mode that you fall into; it's happened with me many times. I wrote this hub in part to "push" myself to do the right thing and reach out more, especially to those who have shown an interest in reconnecting with me.

      By all means, keep being kind. I'm also a nice guy. Some might be foolish enough to think kindness is a sign of weakness, but as long as you stand your ground, you'll be respected. I like the point you made: that kindness is simply the practical thing to do (in your case, making the job easier on everyone). The work gets done faster, business runs smoother, people leave earlier (hopefully!), everyone is happier.

      And, it's incredible how lax a lot of people are about their jobs these days; work ethic has gone almost completely out of the window. I'm sure it's refreshing, a pleasant surprise even, for those guests that appreciate the way you treat them and carry yourself.

    • profile image

      jambo87 7 years ago

      Great hub Benny, I agree with you 100 percent. People generally consider me a nice guy, however I have a dark side that tends to come out only around those who care about me the most. That dark side isn't overtly cruel or insulting, but it just tends to be a little cold, distant, anti-social. Your hub reminded me that I need to work on it.

      I currently spend my time waiting tables, when I'm not in class, or studying for class, or reading leisurely. Guests often compliment me on my kindness and respect. I also expend effort on helping out my coworkers. Some of them think I'm a tool because of this. They think that it's easy to take advantage of's not. I don't help people because it will benefit me (though as you said, it does make me feel good), and I don't help people because I think they deserve it. I help people for the pure sake of stewardship. Teamwork just makes the job easier on everybody.


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