LisaListed

The best things in life aren't things at all

Is Human Nature Good Or Bad?

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It’s funny how things stick with you no matter what has happened. It’s funny that in the moment, you have no idea that the moment will resonate with you for likely the rest of your life. It’s funny how a memory is made… so much happens to us but you never know which moments will make a lasting impression on you. It’s amazing how no matter how much time has passed or how insignificant a moment may have seemed at the time, you still feel a connection to a certain moment.

Some of you may understand what I am talking about, where as others may be wondering how much Bailey’s I’ve added to my coffee this morning but bear with me… maybe this will resonate with you too. If not, add some more Bailey’s to your own coffee and give me a another read.

When I was in high school, my English teacher had us read “Lord Of The Flies” by William Golding. Long story short (pun very much intended): A group of young boys are stranded alone on an island. Left to fend for themselves, they must take on the responsibilities of adults, even if they are not ready to do so. Inevitably, two factions form: one group (lead by Ralph) want to build shelters and collect food, whereas Jack’s group would rather have fun and hunt; illustrating the difference between civilization and savagery.

We were assigned to write an essay based on the novel as to whether we believed human nature was good or bad. I remember when I first started writing my essay, I had started my tangent about how human nature was good because OBVIOUSLY it just was. As I started getting deeper and deeper in to my essay, I started to second guess my initial assumption that human nature was in fact good. That was a scary thought to me at the time. My whole life I believed that human nature was good, kind, positive, etc, etc, but as I delved deeper and deeper and starting thinking from an outsider’s perspective I realized that perhaps I was being prejudice and naïve. It was too scary to say that human nature was purely not good either.

I turned in my essay and my final conclusion was that human nature was neutral. There are tendencies to both sides. There is good and there is bad. I don’t remember what my mark was on my essay, but even since I started thinking about human nature I have not been able to stop. Over a decade has passed by and I still find myself thinking about that very same question and still struggling to find an answer. In the most mundane everyday tasks, I find myself wondering if human nature is in fact good or bad. And then I wonder if my teacher realizes that she has had me thinking deeply about this very same question for over a decade now without coming to a sound conclusion.

Obviously there is bad in this world. Turn on the news and you are bombarded with the “evil” in this world. It’s really sad to think that it is almost 2015 and there is still a very real war going on in the world today. Living in North America, we assume that we are the “good guys” and those other guys are the “bad guys” but there are always two sides to a pancake no matter how flat you make it (thank you, Dr. Phil). We are all well aware of all the bad going on in the world today and that makes me think that human nature isn’t 100% good. Human all have selfish tendencies, it’s all about “survival of the fittest.” This creates greed, which leads to lying, stealing, fear, cowardness, bullying and violence. We have tried to make the Earth a better place for ourselves and to evolve. In doing so, we have eradicated a countless amount of species as well as destroyed the ecosystem. We are destroying earth with our litter and carelessness, but we sweep all of that under the figurative carpet (collecting more litter). You have to stop and think for a second as to why all of this technology is even necessary in the world? Is it really necessary or are we just continuing to spoil the Earth? We have the chance to lessen and decrease the emissions that we create, but we don’t use it. We have the chance to help the less fortunate, but then why are there so many people in this world who don’t even have clean water to drink from while we are washing our luxury cars with the same water we take for granted every single day? Do our egos make us bad? Why were there ever slaves in the first place? And why are there still slaves today? Because our egos make us feel macho and superior? Are we born bad or does society create this side of us? And that, my lovely, is the very same question I have been debating with myself for the past 10+ years.

On the other hand, of course human nature is good. Otherwise the world would be in even bigger shambles than it already is, right? How could one ever possibly consider Mother Theresa to be evil? There is a lot of good in the world, but it doesn’t get broadcasted as much as the negativity in the world. Not convinced? Well then let me share with you something that happened to me not too long ago on the very same day…:

I had just finished a class at my gym and I was so excited for it to be over, I hustled my butt to the exit door ASAP. When I got to the door, I saw that during my class a monsoon had developed. Am I exaggerating? Probably. But it was as if Heaven were making every living creature do the ALS ice bucket challenge whether or not they wanted to.

The lady at the front desk of the gym smiled at me and told me that I should do an extra workout while the storm passed… That was the last thing I wanted to do. So I headed outside sans-umbrella in my workout clothes and went to my happy spot…. Trader Joe’s. TJ’s is only about 2 blocks away, so I figured I could hustle over there without getting absolutely drenched. Well, I was dead wrong. But there is something that happened to me during those two blocks that I need to share with you…

As I was waiting at the longest red light ever waiting to cross the street, a man saw me standing there getting hammered by the rain in my tank top. He started to walk over and before I knew it, he smiled at me and simply placed his umbrella over my head until I was able to cross the street. I was so appreciative and I thanked him endlessly and he just smiled back. The only thing that he said to me was “If that man on the other side of the street talks to you, just be nice to him.” I said “of course” and walked the rest of the way to Trader Joe’s with a smile on my face. A complete stranger, without saying a single word, saw me getting completely soaked and went out of his way to offer me his shelter. He sacrfiiced his own dryness and warmth just to offer me shelter for a minute or two. Would you do that for a complete stranger? I hope that I would, but I’m not entirely 100% sure that I actually would.  He did this without telling me his name, without trying to sell me anything… he did this purely out of the goodness of his own heart. And the only thing he wanted in return was for me to be nice to somebody else on the other side on the street. Sadly, I’m not sure I would ever recognize the man who offered me his umbrella if I were to see him again, but he sure provided me a lot more than a minute of dryness.

Once I got inside TJ’s, the woman who always offers juice samples looked at me in complete horror. To be frank, I looked like a wet dog. Probably smelt like one too since I was coming from the gym. She went on about “you poor thing, you got stuck out there, you must be freezing… etc, etc, etc” she went on for a solid two minutes while I smiled at her and told her that I was fine. She didn’t believe me and aggressively (in a nice aggressive for of way) offered me her sweater. She had literally offered me the shirt off of her back! I didn’t know that people actually did that! I was able to convince her that I was okay and thank her… her parting words to me were “if you change your mind, I’ll still be here”.

That was only in a matter of five minutes. In a part of the city that can be described as “sketchy”. It’s not totally unsafe, but it’s not exactly a place where I would go by myself in the evening.

I see acts of kindness in this city every single day… I’ve watched teenagers (both girls and boys) go out of their way to give money to the homeless, I’ve watched complete strangers help blind people across the street, I’ve seen people go into a fast food chain and give people on the street corner the lunch that they had just purchased. Those kinds of stories don’t get told as much as they should.

I wonder what would happen if stories like this were told more often. Would the world change if we were to spread these stories more often? Rather than focus solely on what’s wrong with the world today, realize that there’s a lot right in the world too. A lot of goodness. But people don’t like to hear about these sort of stories… the kind of stories that create buzz don’t generally make you view the world in a positive light. And I think that needs to change. I think that the world would be a better place if people told their stories more often about nice things that others did for them.  I think that the world would be a better place if we told positive stories just as much as negative stories. If the media shared what good also happened in the world that day. I think the world would be a better place if we simply shared with others what somebody did for them that day, NOT tell others how shitty society is or brag about what nice thing they did for somebody else. I do nice things for people too, but I absolutely despise it when people brag about the nice things that they did for somebody else. When you brag about something nice you did for somebody else, that gives the act a giant dose of selfishness and there is already enough of that in the world. Imagine if people focused more on what nice things OTHER people did rather than tell anybody who will listen about what nice thing they did for someone.

My lovely, living here has taught me to ease up on premeditated judgements of others. To literally walk a mile in other’s shoes. To be more open minded that your way is not necessarily the best way. I encourage you to tell your friend about the complete stranger who held open the door for you rather than bitch to your friend about the guy in front of you taking “forever” to place his order. I encourage you to write a positive review for every negative review that you write. I encourage you to help spread the goodness of every day life. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in making the world a more loving and friendly place. Be kinder to strangers, put your damn ego aside and say “hello” and “thank you”. If you owe somebody an apology, suck it up and give them a sincere apology. Be accountable for your actions and don’t succumb to the excuses that you create for yourself.

At the end of the day, I still can’t make a decision as to whether or not human nature is inherently good or bad. Regardless of what the true, genuine answer is to that question, I’m not sure it necessarily matters. At the end of the day, no matter what race you are, how much money you have, how you were raised, my belief is that at the core of each and every single one of us we all want the same thing. We are all on the mystery pursuit of happiness, health and love. I believe that if we all put aside our egos, our greed and our selfishness, this is something that can absolutely be attained by all one day. We can all make the world a better place, but it’s up to us to do so. The real question is, are we willing to do so?

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Final thought: don’t bother sending me hate letters accusing me of being a bible thumper or a tree hugger… rather than waste your energy and time doing that, give this another read and go buy a stranger a coffee.

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6 thoughts on “Is Human Nature Good Or Bad?

  1. You know, I always got frustrated reading where Jesus told his followers there will always be poor. It can make all of our giving and trying to help people seem useless and like a waste of time. Then I remember that since there are always people needing help, there are alwas chances for us to choose to help and all the ripples that makes in our lives and in theirs.

    • Thanks for the comment and the read! Truthfully I’m not religious, though I believe wholeheartedly with your last sentence. Religion aside, at the core of every one of us we are more similar than we are different. Everyone has a helping hand to offer and everyone will need a helping hand at one point 🙂

  2. Good points, but I think what is causing most of the problems in this world of ours is the pursuit of power and control in everything covering from a global to a personal scale. However, keep on showing kindness and smiling to others to make the world a little warmer place to live.

  3. Good thoughts… I think the world is in a fallen state. We were made to be fully good, but now we are broken. So yes, the potential to do both good or bad, at least until we are fully fixed one day, which I do think will happen. Call me crazy! 😉 In the meantime, I agree with you, let’s get out there and be a part of the difference! 🙂 ❤ the post!

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