I was talking to someone a few weeks ago. She said, “It’s never wrong to do good.” That got me to thinking.
Is that a true statement? Well, it depends. “Depends on what?” you might well ask. Well, it depends on your definition of “good” and whose “good” we’re talking about.
What is the definition of good? Well, cookies are good. Coffee is good. But are coffee and cookies good if you have the flu? (Well, for some of us it just might be. :)) Is coffee good if you have high blood pressure? Are cookies good if you’re a diabetic?
Going to the dentist is good, but lot’s of people hate going to the dentist. It doesn’t feel good to them.
Is it good to give money to a practicing drug addict?
Is it good to give money to a gambler?
I mean I could go on and on, couldn’t I? But I think the point has been made.
And what if your definition of good is not good for me? Parents and children have been fighting over this one for years. Personally, I think alcohol is overall not a good choice for anyone. (I have lots of reasons that have nothing to do with my faith, by the way.) But what if you think a glass of red wine every night is good for your health?
Here’s what I think it boils down to.
First of all, I think often we do “good” because it makes us feel good. We feel magnanimous. We feel proud of ourselves. Hey, that’s OK. In the case of giving financially to charity, for example, the motive doesn’t make much difference if people are helped.
I think the Hippocratic oath is the best place to begin.
First, do no harm.
Giving money to a drug addict or gambler is doing harm. We are making the situation worse. Baking an apple pie for your diabetic husband because you love him and he loves apple pie is not doing good for him.
I think these arguments are fairly obvious. So the biggest question is, why do so many people do more harm than good when they think good is what they’re doing? (Did you follow that?)
The answer is that most people don’t understand the difference between doing the “right” thing and doing the “good” thing. Let’s face it; sometimes it is hard to know the right thing to do.
But let’s not get lazy in our thinking or our logic. Let’s ask the hard questions:
- Is my intervention necessary? Too often we step in when God is just getting a person where He needs them to be for Him to work in their lives.
- Will our “good” deed enable someone to continue in their destructive behavior?
- Will our “good” to them cause us harm? Think of this in terms of perhaps letting an adult child move back home indefinitely after they’ve dropped out of college and don’t have a job.
- Ask yourself, “What is my motive? Am I simply trying to avoid a confrontation? Am I taking the easy way out? The easy way is not necessarily the right way.
- Ask, am I really doing this to look good to others?
- Sometimes we don’t want others to think harshly of us. To say “no” to someone can make us look selfish or just plain mean. But when someone’s well-being is at stake, should we even care what it looks like to someone else?
I’m sure there are more questions we could ask and I guess it all leads back to the first point I made: First, do no harm.
To which I would add “Do no harm to them OR to you”. Don’t rush in. Take your time. Think it through. Talk it through. Set some guidelines, expectations. If it involves money, think really hard. What starts out as a loan often ends up as a gift.
Let’s do good by all means. But let’s make sure it’s really “good” we’re doing.
God bless and I hope you have a good day.