“Good” is a universally used word in our English language, but with such wild range of meanings that the word good in itself verges on being a nonsense word. One person starts a chess program for impoverished children and calls it ‘good’ while the next person sets a house of worship on fire and calls it ‘good’. One person puts on a benefit concert for charity and calls it good while the next threatens, demeans and terrorizes his or her neighbors; all calling it ‘good’. Why would I ever ground a decision making model on the individual’s Sense of Good? The answer has to do with the ‘Sense of Good’ rather than simple ‘good’.
Intitially in my life experience I was struck by how we become the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Woven through those stories is our cultural and communal sense of good. Our true sense of good is not a recitation of virtues and values, but rather an extraction through discernment of beneficial power from our life narratives developed out of direct life experiences. In our distant past, communities maintained internal security and health through carefully curated stories that served as palliative medicine as well as transmission vehicles for life’s hard won wisdom regarding the complex nature of good. In the recent past as a society we seem to have transferred our Sense of Good designed to emanate from a discernment process to platforms of ideology be they right or left wing, or hardened forms of stubborn commitment. After recent generations of violence and trauma experienced directly in our lives or vicariously through our media we are struggling to absorb the impact of mass shooting, public bombing and parking lot pandemic morgue events as they become tragically commonplace. The problem is these kinds of traumas cannot be normalized in a healthy life. The nonsense of good in our world is direct evidence that we are not respecting the destructive power of trauma, and particularly trauma that has not received a healing response. Left untreated through trauma informed care, violence, war, terrorism, and abuse in its many forms can only erode our health and society. Our restorative response to the suffering that emanates from these harmful events represents the only potential good that can come from a time like ours. With every decision we make we cannot help but contribute some small or larger quotient of suffering to our community. A Good Decision can only tip the balance of consequence toward a Sense of Good and such a decision can reduce harm. Our awareness of the mixed consequences of all decisions represents the human price for choice and lends an essential humility to our ever emergent Sense of Goodness. This awareness of universal suffering and your commitment to reduce suffering coupled with a ‘do no intentional harm’ ethic are two critical reference points and bannisters in the ongoing maturation of our Sense of Good and the healing of community.