What is the “Greater” Good?

Recent events in my life have led me to thinking about human “qualities” and what we judge and interpret to be “good” and what we judge and interpret to be “bad.” There are certain qualities we, as humans, tend to universally regard as “good” – things like kindness, patience, courtesy, charity, honesty … the list could go on and on. Likewise, there are certain “qualities” we regard as “bad” – things like dishonesty, theft, outright “meanness,” … you get the idea. However, what happens when two qualities of either “category” seem to be in conflict with one another?

Here is an example – someone in your family is getting married and the way in which it happened and the time at which it happened were both sub-optimal. Are you happy for the marriage that is coming given these circumstances? No. So now YOU are the one in a bind – do you smile through your teeth and say “OH I AM JUST SO HAPPY FOR YOU….” or do you remain honest to yourself and everything around you and say “Well, I might be happy for you in a little while, but you didn’t really take anyone’s feelings into account but your own.”? My personal tendency is almost always to be honest – but that brings up the question at hand, i.e., “which trait is ‘more good’ – kindness or honesty?” That’s a tricky one, and one I personally cannot answer.

We all find ourselves in these sorts of positions in life – ones in which we have to decide at a moment’s notice which “quality” is the one that is “more beneficent?” Those qualities and those judgments can vary dramatically, but just the quandary that arises from trying to discern which is more “important” for you is murky, at best.

What do you do when you encounter such a “sticky wicket?” How do you then reconcile the inability to manifest both qualities within yourself – i.e., how do you “self-soothe” after you have made such a decision? I am very interested in hearing what others have to say about this one. Ethics, in general, represent an area or areas of particular difficulty (for this reason, I have steered clear of this topic in my post-secondary education to the greatest extent possible!). At any rate, I do (genuinely!) wish you all happiness and health today, wherever in the world you might be!


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