EACH of us naturally wants to be thought of as being a good person. However, displaying goodness is a challenge in today’s world. Many people are “without love of goodness.” (2 Tim. 3:3) They may follow a personal standard of right and wrong that, in effect, says that “good is bad and bad is good.” (Isa. 5:20) And we all contend with our own background and imperfections. Hence, we may feel like Anne,* who despite serving Jehovah for decades admits, “I struggle to believe that I can be a good person.”
Happily, all of us can cultivate goodness! It is a product of God’s holy spirit, and his spirit is more powerful than any external or internal obstacle we might face. Let us examine goodness more closely and learn how we can display this quality more fully.
WHAT IS GOODNESS?
Simply put, goodness is the quality or state of being good. It involves moral excellence and virtue, without badness or rottenness. Goodness is evident by its beneficial effect on others. It is an active, positive quality manifested in helpful deeds.
You have likely seen that some readily do good things for their family and friends, but is that where goodness should stop? Granted, we are limited in our ability to display this quality, for the Bible says that “there is no righteous man on earth who always does good and never sins.” (Eccl. 7:20) The apostle Paul candidly admitted: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good.” (Rom. 7:18) How reasonable, therefore, to go to the Source of goodness if we want to develop that quality.
“JEHOVAH IS GOOD”
Jehovah God sets the standard of what is good. Regarding him, we read: “You are good and your works are good. Teach me your regulations.” (Ps. 119:68) Let us examine the two aspects of Jehovah’s goodness mentioned in that verse.
Jehovah is good. Goodness is an inseparable part of Jehovah’s personality. Consider what happened when Jehovah told Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before your face.” As Jehovah’s glory—including his goodness—passed by, Moses heard these words: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth, showing loyal love to thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (Ex. 33:19; 34:6, 7) We have reason to understand, then, that goodness is reflected in every facet of Jehovah’s being. Though Jesus was the epitome of goodness in a human, he could say: “Nobody is good except one, God.”—Luke 18:19.
Jehovah’s works are good. Goodness is apparent in all of God’s doings. “Jehovah is good to all, and his mercy is evident in all his works.” (Ps. 145:9) Jehovah’s goodness is impartial, providing life and all that humans need to sustain it. (Acts 14:17) His goodness is also shown when he forgives us. The psalmist wrote: “You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive.” (Ps. 86:5) We can be certain that “Jehovah will not hold back anything good from those walking in integrity.”—Ps. 84:11.
“LEARN TO DO GOOD”
We are created in God’s image, so we have the potential for being good and for doing good. (Gen. 1:27) Nevertheless, God’s Word urges his servants to “learn to do good.” (Isa. 1:17) But how can we foster this appealing quality? Consider three ways we can do this.
First, we can pray for holy spirit, which can help Christians to produce genuine goodness. (Gal. 5:22) Yes, God’s spirit can help us come to love what is good and reject what is bad. (Rom. 12:9) In fact, the Bible indicates that Jehovah can make us “firm in every good deed and word.”—2 Thess. 2:16, 17.
Second, we should read God’s inspired Word. As we do, Jehovah can instruct us in “the entire course of what is good” and equip us “for every good work.” (Prov. 2:9; 2 Tim. 3:17) By such reading, followed by meditation, we fill our heart with good things about God and his will. We thus add to a treasure that we can draw on later.—Luke 6:45; Eph. 5:9.
Third, we try our best to “imitate what is good.” (3 John 11) We find examples to imitate in the Bible. Of course, the prime examples are Jehovah and Jesus. But we can also consider others who were noted for their goodness. Two who might come to mind are Tabitha and Barnabas. (Acts 9:36; 11:22-24) You can profitably analyze their record, taking note of what they did in practical ways to help others. Give some thought to how you can take the initiative to render aid to some in your family or congregation. And do not overlook how each of those two benefited from having the reputation of being a good person. You can benefit similarly.
We can also give some thought to modern-day examples of those who do good. For instance, consider hardworking elders in the congregation who are ‘lovers of goodness.’ Not to be overlooked are faithful sisters who by word and example are “teachers of what is good.” (Titus 1:8; 2:3) A sister named Roslyn relates: “My friend goes out of her way to help and encourage others in the congregation. She thinks about their situation and often gives them little gifts or helps them in other practical ways. I view her as a truly good person.”
Jehovah encourages his people to “search for what is good.” (Amos 5:14) Doing so, we will not only come to love his standards but also strengthen our motivation to do what is good.
We strive to be good and to do good
We need not imagine that practicing good requires grand gestures or dramatic sacrifices. To illustrate: Do you think of an artist painting a portrait with only one or two brushstrokes? Rather, he may use many brushstrokes to create his painting. Similarly, our goodness can be seen in many helpful acts.
The Bible urges us to be “prepared” and “ready” to render good. (2 Tim. 2:21; Titus 3:1) Being alert to the circumstances of others, we may see ways to please our neighbor “for his good, to build him up.” (Rom. 15:2) That may involve sharing something we have. (Prov. 3:27) We might invite someone over for a simple meal or for upbuilding association. If we know someone is sick, we can send him a card, visit him, or call him. Yes, we may identify many opportunities to say “what is good for building up as the need may be, to impart what is beneficial to the hearers.”—Eph. 4:29.
Like Jehovah, we seek to do good to all people. We therefore treat others impartially. An outstanding way is by preaching the good news of the Kingdom to all. As Jesus commanded, we seek to do good even to those who seem to hate us. (Luke 6:27) It is never wrong to be kind and to do what is good to others, for “against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) By good conduct despite opposition or trials, we may draw others to the truth and glorify God.—1 Pet. 3:16, 17.
REWARDED BY GOODNESS
“The good man reaps the reward of his dealings.” (Prov. 14:14) What are some of the rewards? When we are good toward others, they are more likely to treat us well in return. (Prov. 14:22) Even if others do not, our persisting in good deeds may soften their disposition and melt their hardness.—Rom. 12:20, ftn.
Many can testify to how they have benefited from doing good and turning away from bad. Consider Nancy’s experience. “I grew up reckless, immoral, and disrespectful,” she admits. “However, as I learned and applied God’s standards of good, I began to feel happier. Now I have dignity and self-respect.”
The greatest reason for us to cultivate goodness is that doing so makes Jehovah happy. Even if many do not see what we do, Jehovah does. He is aware of our every good deed and thought. (Eph. 6:7, 8) With what result? “The good person obtains Jehovah’s approval.” (Prov. 12:2) So let us continue to cultivate goodness. Jehovah promises “glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good.”—Rom. 2:10.
Some names have been changed.