By Professor Richard A. Byron-Cox (PhD)
Maybe you as I, did something important, kind, generous for others; perhaps many things for many others, and they never even uttered, “thanks,” rather seeing it as our obligation, i.e., if they acknowledged it at all. Worse, are those who take our generosity, then turn Judases, defiling our names and characters, and would physically murder us if they catch us dozing. This evil of evils –“for ingratitude is indeed worse than witchcraft,”- sometimes results in us being hurt, psychologically/spiritually traumatized, heartbroken. While these are natural responses to these abuses of our charity, we feel this way because we didn’t really do THE GOOD.
For me The Good is when kindness, generosity, charity and the like are given without wanting or needing even a “thank you.” The Good is absolutely free of desires for recompense. Nothing is wrong with a thank you, but the good act needs it not. When we do kindness thinking of gaining recognition, it’s bribery! You can disagree with me, but truth is, such actions are predicated on the notion, “I scratch your back, and you or someone else will scratch mine.” Reciprocity and more as returns are our motives. One of my cousins following the tradition of our parents often encourages, “Rich, continue to give, God go bless yo’.” This gets me extremely irate! He is encouraging me to bribe God! Now, the Bible teaches that God is omniscient; will he not know of my fraudulence? Righteous dishonesty is now the church’s stock in trade generally speaking, making religion dirtier and more corrupt than even politics! I have been opposed to bribery form the genesis of my moral and ethical consciousness. And seeing that The Good must have no profit motive, I refuse to bribe God.
The Good is done not for any reward, not because others will follow and do likewise, not for good name; and it is certainly the antithesis of greed. The Good is done for one reason only: it is the right thing to do. It’s completely immaterial to the doer if The Good is not received with gratitude or cherished. The doer understands that The Good is pure as purity itself, and therefore It’s undaunted, uncompromised, and unrepentant in the face shameless, unconscionable, and parasitic ingratitude. The unrepenting nature of doing The Good is of infinite significance. For then, regardless of the response, the doer never regrets that he did The good. How often we find ourselves saying things like “If I did know that he was such a person, I would never have done X or Y good for him.” No, we did not do The Good in such cases, we offered a bribe, which was taken but went unhonoured, and so in step our regrets and bitterness.
The question of what is The Good has challenged philosophers and moralists from Plato to Gandhi. I am also confounded by this puzzle. However, I know that the basis of doing The Good cannot be the hope for future material windfall. Doing The Good therefore necessitates being good, as it flows from the very nature of the doer irrespective of the circumstances prevailing before, during, or after The Good is done. It is a completely selfless act, not a mere thought, wish, hope, feeling or prayer, (the illusion of many Christians). It is a manifested selfless moment. It is the absence of The Good that so troubles our country and world today. We are caught in power politics, political correctness, religious fanatism, the dream of economic prosperity and Ali Baba caves of riches, being on one side of this divide or the other, and a million other things, but not in doing The Good. I am not saying that all or any of these other things are irrelevant. They are not my concern here. Rather, I am wondering why is doing The Good not among these great concerns of humanity. Is it that The Good is irrelevant in today’s world? Is it but a moral relic for we are all atomised, alienated from each other? It struck me that recently a teacher showed concern for a student who had been absent from school for some time. The news reported that the teacher was told “to mind her own business!” Yes, sometimes, we put ourselves in jeopardy, even bankruptcy to help those in need, only to find that they are our cloak-and-dagger Cains. This usually cause us to want to recoil and become apathetic, but only, and only if we fail to understand the true essence of doing The Good, and more importantly, of being The Good: for then, doing The Good, is already our reward as it is our self-realization.