Goodwill (April 16)


“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Anonymous).

IT TAKES A PERSON OF UNUSUAL HONESTY TO CONFRONT THE QUESTION OF GOODWILL. It’s easy to say we care about people and that we have goodwill toward all, but it’s a rare person who can say those things and not be twisting the truth. Aren’t there a few individuals whom it would give us some secret pleasure to see hurt? Not a lot, of course, just a little bit . . . just to give them a taste of their own medicine . . . just to see that justice is done. It would, after all, be “for their own good,” wouldn’t it? Because we “care” about them.

The unvarnished truth is this: most of us ordinary folks have at least a trace of malevolence (“ill will”) in us. Where there should be benevolence (“good will”), there is too often a residue of spite or vindictiveness. We say we “don’t mean anybody any harm,” but we harbor the thought that harm is exactly what some people have got coming to them — and it wouldn’t hurt our feelings much to see them get it.

It’s my considered opinion, however, that ill will is not a way of thinking that’s natural to us. It’s a perversion, a warping of our better instincts. I agree with Václav Havel, who said, “Time and time again I have been persuaded that a huge potential of goodwill is slumbering within our society. It’s just that it’s incoherent, suppressed, confused, crippled, and perplexed.” So we need to be honest about it when we see that our goodwill has been “suppressed, confused, etc.,” and be relentless in rooting these interferences out of our hearts.

Whether our will toward others is good or ill, will is something we can change. If we’ve gotten into the habit of thinking hurtful thoughts about others, it may take some practice, but we can change our “ill will” into “good will.” We can determine to be benevolent.

But as we work on our goodwill, let’s make it better by making it more specific. Generic goodwill toward the human race is of relatively little use. What we need is an active, practical, small-scale goodwill toward those whom we actually have to deal with every day!

“You cannot add to the peace and goodwill of the world if you fail to create an atmosphere of harmony and love right where you live and work” (Thomas Dreier).

Gary Henry –