April 2nd 2006

copyright don oddy

~ conscience ~

good people and bad behaviour

Most people are good inside. I know I am good inside, knowing the right thing to do most of the time. And the good in all of us comes from our good conscience. We all have a conscience.

Yet sometimes we find that however good we are, there are times when we will bend and swerve and break our codes of good behaviour. We will reason out our deviation from the path of good conscience to deal with bad things badly. Bad behaviour is usually our reaction to bad times, being treated badly and a strong feeling to put matters right.

How many times have we found ourselves in situations where we know we have been cheated, made a fool or just made plain angry by how others behave towards us. How many times do we think we can endure the bad behaviour of others till we lash out and make some protest and even try to get even. Good people sometimes want retribution for the ills suffered. We learn early in life that we can be hurt and its not justified. From the playground to adult life we can feel unfairness around us. We know as good people the injustice and feelings of revenge.

Sometimes we behave badly, we have to learn how to be good, we might start out in life with disadvantage and we might start out in life with bad examples of how to behave. We learn what is good and right for us. Most of our societies have laws and codes of living which show us the way, yet we as citizens and individuals have free will. Our freedom to choose is inbuilt and it is rare that we give up our self determination inside our heads to the ideas and values of society unless they are attractive.

We have so many conflicts in our own codes, there is no one way to live. Our society and culture may say one thing and we will rebel and demonstrate either mentally or actually that we agree or disagree. We are built internally to challenge right and wrong for us.

Our dilemmas are never easy for we have nature and instinct we are born with which provides powerful internal drives to behave certain ways. And then we have nurture which makes us conform to patterns of family and community. We also have secular influences, and we have religious and spiritual influences. All these influences can make us behave to be good or act against what is perceived as good. I am trying to avoid saying bad, for one mans badness is another's goodness. And across the sexual divides we have our social behaviour which is also either seen to the good or to our disadvantage. We can be good and bad at the same time.

We humans are designed to test boundaries all through our lives, we seem to be designed to strive, be tenacious, act in our own self interest.

Somewhere in our humanity, we have this internal struggle from survival which keeps us competitive and keeps us aware of our own needs and that of others around us. Nature may dictate we act selfishly, we have to meet our needs for food and love. We have sexual priorities which supersede any notion of community. We are driven to self centeredness and we know through our education and upbringing that a walk down nature's path will undo values and codes of behaviour for our societies.

We good people seem to have overcome our personal drives to an extent to conform and fit with our society. So our internal values systems operate at the very least on more than one set of imperatives.

These alarming conflicts are manifest from early life, our feelings and drives make us question our behaviour, because the imposition of other values from our society bring this internal debate on without fail. We are indeed prone to self centred activities and we learn we have to get on if we wish to belong.

Good people then have these internal debates all the time and so do those we might describe as bad people. The trouble is we all have a conscience and we all know the rules as we grow up. Some though will come to conclusions and behave in their own self interest and some will take account of self interest and also the common good of everyone. Around this we all work out what we do in all good conscience and what we do when our conscience or feelings are upset and our living is challenged.

Good people don't want to behave badly. Bad people think they can behave badly and run risks of being found out. Good and bad people can behave to their natural inclinations and both good and bad can make many mistakes. Both good and bad people can learn from mistakes and in all conscience move on to better times in their lives.

When good people behave badly, the inside turmoil will cause all sorts of conflicts inside. And our most favoured way to deal with ourselves is to make ourselves feel bad. The worse we feel, the lower our feelings of esteem and confidence, the more we are affected, the more likely we behave badly towards ourselves, and the more we are likely to beat ourselves up, behaving badly can become a deserving and justified pattern of behaviour.

We humans are complex, we can move harshly towards ourselves far more effectively than any other and the slide into behaving badly to ourselves is something all of us can do over and over again.

We fall out of love with ourselves and then take it out in making our existence more difficult. If we don't like what we see in the mirror, we will hurt, and the bad behaviour turns inwards. This impacts straight towards how we behave with others. Others then get the benefit by us behaving badly towards them as well.

Patterns start to develop in bad behaviour and become ingrained and repetitious. We get good at feeling bad and staying bad. We get used to being an ill wind in our own lives and tend to dislike our own company.

The scourge of this behaviour is addictive in many respects. We form habits, we reinforce our bad feelings till we feel peculiar in our own skin if we don?t live up to our badness. How we see ourselves gets reinforced and tolerated as we all get accommodated one way or another by circumstances and by the good conscience of our society. Good conscience offers forgiveness, toleration and redemption.

We all tend to have some sort of forgiving attitude which keeps us doing the bad things. Unless of course we are so bad, others will tolerate us or we cannot stand ourselves. When things are at this stage our whole being is in jeopardy from having no feeling of worth and no feeling of real right and wrong. We can be thoroughly corrupted and become dependent on being badly behaved good people.

Sayings like," but for the grace of God go I" spring to mind. More aptly and secularly I prefer we translate this to our good conscience rather than God. For when we invoke a deity to play judge on our behaviour it enables bad or worse behaviour from those who would act out badly to make their own views dominant and their own codes of living primary.

The use of God to wage battles and wars is simply the biggest affront to humanity and a deity imaginable. For in all good conscience when we challenge a raise our objections to society, we need be profoundly aware we act out of our own interest and not that of a third party, real or omnipotent.

Yet we see the use of codes, values and God often provides the greatest endorsement to good people turning to violent repressive and warlike activities. Good people so intent on changing their world they would value their ideas and principles above human life.

And we find with nature that there are people who just are plain bad or plainly not able to function in society. Nature is not infallible and neither are we. The extent to which we all function is always changing, always fluid and always going to produce situations where bad behaviour happens. How we deal with our bad behaviour as good people is simply our good conscience.

Good conscience is something we neglect. Good conscience is an assumption we learn and live with. Good conscience is seldom the tool where expedience and fear make quick decisions inevitable. Good conscience better practised and developed will make us better humans as time permits, our personal times limit our understanding and commitment in an impatient world where we have a short life. Impatience will drive humanity to the edge over and over, and good conscience will provide a richer and more sustained form of living far into the future. We might accept our part in this journey and may wish longevity to share that future.

Meanwhile we need examine ourselves and our good conscience to find some common ground to move along. With forgiveness and challenge of unhelpful and bad behaviour in ourselves first and then share with others our enlightenment. Reliance and evoking deities will bring down society and good governance as surely self interest will too. Self interest is not our measure here, and we might do well to keep a firm grip on reality, our good conscience and making good our lives.