“Are you a good man or a great one?”
The question has been circling in my head for days, and I am not sure of how I want to answer it, but I have to try. The simple answer is to say you are a good man hoping to be great, or maybe a great man capable of doing good works. The poetry of the answer doesn’t answer the question, nor does it give the answer weight. To dance around the answer with pretty words is only to acknowledge that one is neither good nor great, just simply hoping to be one or the other.
I got mad yesterday, at someone I had no reason getting mad at, for I knew they are not mean nor malicious, hateful nor even bad. I got mad at someone because they didn’t do the thing I would have done if I was in their place. I was simply angry because someone was being human, and I was hoping they would be better than that, and in thinking in that manner, I was wrong, and I can’t be great if I am trying to wrong another. I often put expectations on the people I care about, and in doing so, I set them up, like a beautiful display of dominoes, just tumbling down and fantastic to watch, but in the end, just making a mess of things. I am not a great man because I expect great things from people, and that is where I falter, maybe to be great is just to see the good in them.
To be good means to do something pleasing, to master a craft or a duty just enough that it is satisfactory to the eyes of the beholder. To be good sometimes means to be lazy, to just get the job done, and I have been guilty of that sin as well. Perhaps in acknowledging that the entire previous statement isn’t good at all, to admit to oneself and to the entire world that you are happy with status quo, means that you don’t care about better, that maybe you aren’t capable of more. I have been status quo and maybe that eliminates me from being good, and sometimes I am fine with that status. Sometimes I am good with average. Does that make me not good? Maybe just simply being tired and ready to move on to the next task is being human, and in acknowledging my struggles and my limits, does that somehow make me great?
Here I am in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because I am unable to answer this question. I have spent the majority of the day trying to juggle the time of answering the question and attending to the needs of people that have taken the time to come see me, so that I can take the time to see them and attend to their needs. I have a hard time believing that I am either a good man or a great one, because deep down, I am just a man, trying to do the best I can, and sometimes, that isn’t good enough. Sometimes you have to be better than good. Sometimes you have to be greater than great. Sometimes, there is something in admitting defeat, but what is that something?
The philosophical exchange of good and great that play out in my head is painful and it is painful because I care. I can blame it on the Catholic guilt, I can assume it is a normal human response, or I can simply say that anxiety is a real tool. Whatever the case may be, I am here and I am wrestling with this simple question that I have put on a pedestal for me to stare at for hours, hoping the answer to it is the answer to everything, and I need to know what I am, or more importantly, who I hope I am. We are a product of what we do, not what we think. I can think one thing and do another, and I will be judged by the action, not the thought behind it. So maybe the answer lies in that statement, what do I do that makes me good, or do I do things that are great, and who decides the difference between the two? If it is I who judges me, then does the ego get in the way? If society is to decide, then am I judged by prejudice?
I have to stop and take a deep breath, several deep ones, because I am excited, and triggered, and curious. I want to be able to answer the question because I want to be able to define the type of person I am and the type of person I hope to be. The question is simple, but my approach is not. I need an answer, and not for the person that asked it, but because I need to know for me and the little boy that still runs restlessly inside of me, still curious of the world and trying to define the type of man he wants to grow up and become. I will toss and turn, get up and lay back down, all the while being still in the night hoping that the answer will come to me if I just stay silent and listen. I know the address of the place I need to send the question, I just don’t know if I am ready or willing to accept the answer.
The morning sun is soon to rise and I am still here, looking at the question in my head, gazing at it as if it is something foreign and unfamiliar, yet something that has been part of me since the beginning. I know the answer, I know the answer well, but to say the answer is to somewhat give the knowledge a place to roam free, and I am not sure I am ready to let go of the thing that gives me purpose. I will lay here and think of the question and I will lay with the answer, soaking in both and believing that I am capable of both goodness and greatness, but somehow scared to think that statement is true. Scared to believe I am worthy of either.
I am a good man, created by a great thing, and I know that I am capable of good. The world isn’t made up of great and inferior, we are all made equal, but it is made up of good and bad, and those are the barometers for which I choose to judge my actions. Great is meant for those that want to be remembered for who they were. Good is the magic that makes the world better. To remember the names of people is to remember the greatness in them. I don’t choose to be remembered, but I hope the works I perform will be, and in choosing the works I choose the good, and so I choose to be a good man. I choose to make the world better.
I am a good man.
What are you….a good man or a great one?