Basic Goodness

Confidence in the goodness of another is good proof of one’s own goodness. –Michel de Montaigne

Many relationships suffer from a lack of self-esteem. A relationship’s self esteem is connected to that of the partner’s but it also has a life of its own. Genuine esteem is founded in the courage to see oneself truly, both the positive and negative aspects of who we are and how we function and malfunction in the world. This path, which the Buddhists have called the path of the warrior, instructs that even through struggle and difficulty, we thrive in the openness of true knowing and seeing. The courage to confront the brittle edges and the messy corners of our own life and how we relate to others offers its own reward: acknowledging our brokenness is also the gateway to our ability to bear witness to our own basic goodness.

“Whenever you see a bright and beautiful color, you are witnessing your own inherent goodness. Whenever you hear a sweet and beautiful sound, you are hearing your own basic goodness. Whenever you taste something sweet or sour, you are experiencing your own basic goodness….Things like that are always happening to you, but you have been ignoring them, thinking that they are mundane and unimportant, purely coincidences of an ordinary nature. Slowly, you begin to realize that you are able to feel the freshness of realizing your own goodness, again and again.” Chogyam Trungpa

Our relationships are perhaps the most generous and gentle teacher of this lesson in basic goodness available to us. No one knows my most brittle edges and the places where my heartache can break me like my husband. For years, when our relationship would bring out these places in me, it was easy to blame him. At the same time, I didn’t recognize the many small moments of tenderness and attentiveness in our life as the inherent and basic goodness in us that it was. My identification with what was broken in us became habitual. Being a warrior in our own lives and in our relationships is a steep slope.

Years of practice helped me learn that it was never really my husband, or for that matter anyone else, that brought up the harshest parts of who I am. The work of creating something good out of what often feels like not enough brought us both to our knees at times. This was also true about the places where we each shined. It wasn’t really the other person that provoked that steadfast patience with self or others, it was the basic goodness of what we were doing together, usually in the smallest details of life that lifted our head above the water line.

Making a practice of recognizing your basic goodness in the beauty surrounding you will change how you look at the world. Bringing that practice into your relationship and acknowledging the basic goodness that our relationships offer us, especially when they drive us crazy, will change how you live with others. Acknowledging the soft space of coming home, celebrating of all the little details of making a home with someone offers endless opportunities for recognizing the goodness in our lives and our selves.

14 comments

Nimue Pendragon

Ok, I think.

Elisa Faulkner- Uriarte
Elisa F.3 years ago

Enjoyed this very much. Thank You!

Eunice F.
Eunice F.6 years ago

So this whole article is basically telling us to stop and smell the roses.

Judi B.

I'm not speaking from a religious perspective. That's not my thing. I speak as a student on a journey. During the journey, my goal becomes clearer the longer I travel, metaphorically speaking. I believe that relationships are the center of our lives and guide that journey: parents, siblings, offspring, friends, lovers, colleagues, neighbors, pets and communities all contribute (for good and bad) to our change and growth along the way. I think we begin as pure and good intentioned individuals and sometimes lose our way, but with practice and tenacity come back far better in the end. Evil and depravity, although clearly rampant in this world, are anomalies.

Hugh M.
Hugh M.6 years ago

The doctrine of total depravity is not a biblical teaching but an interpretation made by scholars under the influence of beaurocrats after the followers of Christ allowed the beauty of the teachings to become an instrument of earthly power. This article is more in line with the beauty of the book of John than the manuscripts edited by the fanatical Paul. The opening paragraphs of John tell us the light was in all 'men' (people). That doesn't sound like total corruption to me. It sounds like the beginning of a journey of exploration that ends somewhere wonderful, to the true heart of us, passing a lot of corruption and difficulties along the way, undoubtedly, but finding goodness within also. Not so different from what Wendy is saying.

Martha Nieto
Martha Nieto6 years ago

everybody is good, even if this goodness is deeply submerged and doesn´t show

Kerstin Strobl
Kerstin Strobl6 years ago

Susan P. I agree with you..................

Barbara Kohari-Kanyaen
.6 years ago

Good and timely article. And (some) good responses as well. I especially liked the comment left by Susan P. saying what I believe is in part the teachings woven within the Bible: "to see the good in each person . ." Or to put it another way, "judge others as you would be judged."

I don't believe, or feel, this article was written with any religious intentions. Rather it appears to me to be about self awareness and how we can improve not only our own outlook-spiritually as well as emotionally. Thus I was hesitant to begin my comments referring to those left by a 'christian' earlier.

That post seemed a bit out of place certainly with the teaching that I grew up with. In my entire life with my parents I never once heard them say a bad or negative thing about another. I attribute this to their faith/beliefs from their Christian roots. And they believed strongly in "treating others as they wanted to be treated."

Thankfully all Christians aren't compared by the actions, or words, of a few.That is not to say that we don't all have a right to express our thoughts. But the blanket type statement, "because of my christian faith . . I am of the opinion that all human nature is totally and completely depraved" not only leaves a reader with the idea that all Christians think that but it is a terrible thing to say about the many that devote their lives in an effort to make this a better world for all.

Sylvia Wulf
Sylvia W.6 years ago

Teresa, the tag was for 'relationships and sexuality' - and it makes perfect sense in context, when you consider how much of our society's problems with sex come from self esteem problems. Too low self esteem makes sex a trial, too high - as in egomania or over-inflated sense of self power leads to date rape, sexual serial conquests and often other psychological problems. Sex, like relationships, to be successful, requires both parties to both be willing - to be in it, to work at it - and to be equal. Self esteem is not the same thing as pride, it is self knowledge - seeing oneself warts and all, accepting and yet still striving to improve. That in turn brings centering and serenity.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.6 years ago

I wonder whether the tags were only meant to attract attention... What does sexuality have to do with goodness????!!!!