Wisdom from Books

<b>Wisdom from Books</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Are You Good?

Are you good?

To answer this soul-searching question, you must also require mindfulness—mindful of who you really are and what you have done to self as well as to others, especially to those around you.

Is the nature of man inherently good or bad?

This is one of the most controversial questions that does not have a definitive answer.

There are those who believe that man is created in God's image to serve Him; if that is truly the case, man is inherently good. There are, on the other hand, those who believe that man is inherently bad.

According to Hsun Tzu (荀子), a Confucian Chinese philosopher who lived approximately between 310-219 B.C., the nature of man is evil, and his goodness is the result of his right actions and activities. Hsun Tzu’s explanation was that man’s innate nature is to seek gain, which is often followed by strife and rapacity that may annihilate his deference and compliance; man’s envy and hatred of others may obliterate his loyalty and faithfulness; and man’s desire to gratify his five senses may engender his own lewdness and licentiousness. This is how man may have become bad and even evil.

According to many Western philosophers, man from the outset is originally evil. For example, Thomas Hobbes, a 16th century English philosopher, believed that the life of man in his natural state is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian neurologist and founding father of psychoanalysis, also believed that man is innately evil and aggressive as demonstrated by the fact that we are violent on criminals; but that in a civilized society, the law is unable to prosecute the more subtle and smaller aggression of man, which can sometimes be just as evil.

Essentially, good and evil are only moral concepts that have coexisted since the beginning of time; humans have been categorizing different actions and feelings based on their own philosophical concepts. Good and evil are closely linked together, just like the concept of yin and yang; one cannot exist without the other, and they balance and complement each other.

Undeniably, we all have the bright as well as the dark side of life. The Bible calls the dark side of human nature “sin.” None of us is exempt from sin. Life is always an inner struggle between what is perceived in an individual’s moral system as “right” and the dark opposing force inside to do just the opposite as “wrong.” To make matters worse, most of us are really quite good at our self-deception: either we deceive ourselves into thinking that the dark opposing force does not exist in ourselves, or we simply inflate our own personal virtues to overshadow the dark force within us.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish novelist, called this dark side of human nature the duality of man. In his famous story “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he presented Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde both having a dark side within them, where evil is always lurking to surface anytime. Both of them hide their evil away, pretending it never exists. In the end, it turns out that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are actually one and the same person.

No matter whether human nature is inherently good or bad, how you view the nature of humans is important because it shapes the way you look at life, and, more importantly, how you live your own life.

No matter whether we were born “good” or “bad”,  we all have enough “goodness” within us to change ourselves to become “better.”

“Evil exists to glorify the good. Evil is negative good. It is a relative term. Evil can be transmuted into good. What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else.” Mencius

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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