How To Be A Good Person And Why It Matters
By: Darby Faubion
Updated May 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Sonya Bruner
Have you ever wondered why people make the choices they do? What makes a person a good person? Should we strive to be good, and if so, why?
If you asked twenty people what it means to be a good person, chances are you would get twenty different answers. What individuals perceive to be good character traits vary depending on several factors. Religion, ethnic background and family dynamics all play a part in forming one's personal opinions and often gauge how they view others.
Generally speaking, most people share a desire to be good. However, without knowing what makes a person considered to be a "good person," it's impossible to achieve that goal. For many, the struggle between trying to be good and having negative character traits can cause extreme anxiety or depression. We will discuss some of these issues and how to overcome them later in this article.
What Is Goodness?
The word "good" is defined as "virtuous, right and commendable; kind and benevolent." (Merriam-Webster)
Henry David Thoreau was quoted as saying that "[g]oodness is the only investment that never fails."
Characteristics of a Good Person
A good person often has habits, or characteristics, that make him or her stand out to others. A few examples include:
An empathetic person expresses an understanding of how others feel. It is expressed as an emotion, not just a verbal statement of understanding. An individual who is hurting often longs to have someone who understands what he or she is going through.
An individual who wants to be a good person will strive to be honest with themselves and others. Dishonesty is one way to ruin a relationship and to make people negatively look at you.
Being humble doesn't mean a person subjects themselves to humiliation. Rather, a person who practices humility is willing to be kind to others without expecting to be rewarded. A humble person is willing to give of themselves and does not expect to receive anything in return.
Being free from personal biases means that an individual can give an opinion without prejudice. It reflects a commitment to the basic principles of what is right, rather than being committed to the opinions of others.
Taking responsibility for one's actions is a sign of maturity and is a characteristic of a good person.
Why Being a Good Person Matters
Your actions and behaviors help build your reputation. Some people may be known as selfish, money-hungry or a menace. Others may be seen as a kind, generous and faithful friend. Your reputation, among other factors, will create the opportunities you encounter in life.
Life choices, as mentioned above, have a way of following us for years, sometimes throughout our whole life. Below we'll discuss how our choices and reputations affect our lives, and why being a good person matters.
How Being Good (or Bad) May Affect Your Career
Consider, for a moment, that you were the owner of a company and you needed to hire a new employee. Among potential candidates, two have amazing resumes. However, when you look beyond the words on the resume and contacted references, one of the candidates was spoken very highly of. You are told that she is passionate about work, honest and very accountable. The other candidate, however, had references who were not as impressive. You were told that he was always late for work, could not take instruction or advice from supervisors without being offended and was caught being dishonest in a few business deals. Suddenly, the experience outlined on those resumes doesn't seem as important, does it?
Practicing habits of honesty and integrity are ways to establish yourself as a "good person." Choosing to do otherwise could result in a negative impact on your career.
The Good, the Bad, and Relationships
Without a doubt, our behavior (whether good or bad) will impact our relationships with others. Practicing bad habits or acting poorly will eventually make people doubt our sincerity and trustworthiness. On the other hand, having a giving attitude, being honest and selfless are characteristics that people seek when building a long-term friendship or intimate relationship. It's a matter of feeling safe. Relationships are an investment and people who want healthy relationships will seek out people who make them feel safe, rather than those who leave them feeling uneasy or questioning their worth.
Being good is a personal decision. No matter how much education we receive on the positive and negative effects our behavior has on ourselves and others, no one can force another to be a genuinely good person. Consider the benefits of being a good person and how good behavior can impact your life for years to come.
Earning the Respect of Others - Doors of opportunity tend to open more easily when we have the respect of others. Having the reputation of being a good person speaks volumes to present or potential employers, your co-workers, and your peers. When other people respect you, you are more likely to have a positive influence on their lives.
Respecting Yourself - If you find it difficult to respect yourself, chances are, others will not be respectful of you either. Acting in a good manner with honest habits and a good work ethic will give you a sense of pride and the right to respect yourself and your efforts.
Feeling a Sense of Purpose - Every action we have creates a sense of accomplishment or a feeling of regret. Learning good behavior and practicing it daily will create a feeling of purpose. The more purpose we feel, the more determined we become to accomplish good things in our lives.
When Being Good Seems Hard to Do
Have you ever felt that, no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to get life on the right track? No matter what a person's past is like, we all experience days that seem a little more difficult than others. Life is a journey. Every day should be lived with purpose. Even the bad ones.
For many, the struggle to be a good person or to change unhealthy habits is very real. Talking to a friend or close family member may be a good way to gain some insight into how your behavior has affected others. Additionally, if the issue of being a good person is something that you struggle with, but want to achieve, seeking the advice of a counselor or therapist is a great way to discuss your feelings and learn ways to apply good practices.
Counselors are trained to give support through life's difficulties. While some people choose to find a counselor or therapist who is located near where they live, this may not be an option for others. When you want to talk with a counselor but don't have the time to travel to and from appointments, online counseling is an option to consider.
Online counseling, such as that offered at BetterHelp, is a way of connecting with a counselor or therapist without having to worry about time constraints. At BetterHelp, we offer counseling with licensed, professional counselors that is convenient and accessible anywhere you have an internet connection. Our mission is to provide counseling to those in need anywhere, anytime.
Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Michal has been very supportive. Her techniques are very handy and have really helped me switch my negative thoughts to positive ones. Looking forward to learning more from her to become a better version of myself. Thank you Michal."
"Krysten has been an immense help in dealing with and confronting my anger and depression issues. I started to notice immediate changes in my general disposition within a week of working with her. My friends and family have even said I seem less bitter and jaded. And the fact that I can communicate with her frequently has done wonders in keeping me on track and progressing forward. My time working with Krysten and being on BetterHelp has been a positive experience and done much more for me than traditional in-office therapy ever did."
When asked, most people will say that they desire to be a good person. The benefits of being good, such as having strong relationships or having a positive influence on others are undeniable. While most behavior is learned in childhood, that doesn't mean that bad behavior cannot be changed and positive behavior learned. Honesty with oneself is the first step to becoming a good person. With the right tools, you can be a good person and enjoy the benefits discussed in this article.