Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do All the Good You Can

Flickr.com/Hannah Swithinbank

Someone advised, “If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.”

You’ve probably heard it said that it’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice. And there’s truth in that. But isn’t there something even more important than being nice? More important even that being good? What about DOING good? What about standing up and being counted? When courageous people take unpopular stances, they aren’t always seen by their opposition in a soft and gentle light.

Not too long into the American Civil War the Union finally won a victory at Antietam. President Lincoln used the occasion to produce a proclamation to free American slaves. He called his cabinet together and laid the document before them. He had been shaking the hands of well-wishers all morning and his arm and hand were stiff. He rested his arm and spoke to Secretary of State William Seward.

“If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘He hesitated.’”

Then he picked up a pen and signed “Abraham Lincoln” in bold writing. There were a large number of people that day who would not have used the word “nice” to describe his action. In fact, a great many not only couldn’t say anything kind, they couldn’t even be vague. He was slandered, maligned and demonized. But that signature, coupled with a later Union victory, changed the course of history forever. American slaves were finally to be free.

How many slave-owners of the day were reputed to be nice people? And in most areas of their lives, many probably were. But there comes a time for each of us to stand up and do right thing. To DO good.

I hope that that my personal moral code will always be broader than simply trying to be a pleasant person. I hope I don’t back down when I have a chance to DO good, to make a real difference, even at a cost.

I don’t think it was ever put better by anyone than by eighteenth century church reformer John Wesley.

"Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can."
What if we tried to live by the motto: DO all the good you can? Now, THAT would be nice.

-- Steve Goodier

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