I know people who seem to see nothing but the good. They are encouraging and find the right words even in difficult situations. I am certain that their eyes are perhaps clearer than mine, but not much is said about the negative. It is not ignored. It is turned around. There is often not so much accomplished by blame (we have courts and congress for that) and always seeking the worst examples (we have cable news for that).
Seeing good takes discipline. Doing good takes more. But first it must be seen. Goodness is seen in the actions of people who have developed the capability to look beyond themselves and present circumstances. It is seen in granting forgiveness even when it comes at a cost. It is seen in the appropriate discipline toward children or employees. It is seen in the courageous acts of those who may seem to cause trouble by standing for justice.
Seeing goodness recognizes failure and works to overcome it. Enough people doing enough good can overwhelm evil. It does not fear the success or lifting up of others but encourages it and rejoices when it happens. The success of others who are doing good and doing well is a blessing to all of us.
Goodness is not always obvious. “That was a good thing you did,” are words that often follow a sacrificial decision for the benefit of another. They can almost be words of consolation because something unpleasant for one or both parties had to be done. The path that was being taken had to be changed. Such actions taken out of the context can look unkind.
If one is a believer in God through the avenue of Christ, then we can see that goodness is complex, for goodness expressed on a cross is beyond us.
Later, the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:28, “In everything God works for good with those who love him.” (RSV) Too often we read it, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” It will say that in some of our Bibles. The danger here is we have been so heavily influenced by the health and wealth of the last century that we read it as “everything will be ok if we just believe enough.” If we take a longer view, less focused on the individual or the here and now, we will be nearer to our experience. For all of us have experienced times when things did not go so well for us but did for someone else or a larger group.
Here is a thought from Augustine of Hippo (354-430) concerning God and goodness. “But neither does He use after our fashion of using. For when we use objects, we do so with a view to the full enjoyment of the goodness of God. God, however, in His use of us, has reference to His own goodness. For it is because He is good we exist; and so far as we truly exist we are good. And, further, because He is also just, we cannot with impunity be evil; and so far as we are evil, so far is our existence less complete. Now He is the first and supreme existence, who is altogether unchangeable, and who could say in the fullest sense of the words, “I AM THAT I AM,” and “Thou shalt say to them, I AM has sent me unto you;” So that all other things that exist, both owe their existence entirely to Him, and are good only so far as He has given it to them to be so. That use, then, which God is said to make of us has no reference to His own advantage, but to ours only; and, so far as He is concerned, has reference only to His goodness. When we take pity upon a man and care for him, it is for his advantage we do so; but somehow or other our own advantage follows by a sort of natural consequence, for God does not leave the mercy we show to him who needs it to go without reward. Now this is our highest reward, that we should fully enjoy Him, and that all who enjoy Him should enjoy one another in Him.” (On Christian Doctrine, chapter 32).
Goodness has a reference outside of itself, otherwise we would all act only for our own benefit. While many may do this, I am of the optimistic opinion that many do not. I believe it to be true that what is good for one is ultimately good for all, and the opposite is true as well. It may take time, but goodness — like truth — will win out.