Most of us are probably comfortable with the notion that we are decent people.
On average, I presume, folks would say they hope to inflict as little harm upon others as possible. Even if they fail miserably, haven't most perpetrators you know maintained their innocence--at least their innocence of motive?
We are likely to maintain our own innocence of motive because, well, most of us are comfortable with the notion that we are decent people. Maybe we could define decency as a lack of motive to harm. Even ancient wisdom, like the Golden Rule, presumes this definition of decency. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We could talk more about "harm" and how it relates to the greater good. It seems prudent, however, to steer away from hypotheticals and keep things grounded.
"Am I a decent person?" is an appropriate question to ask. To inquire is never an admission of guilt. It is, if anything, a willingness to seek out truth, even at the risk of exposing one's own failures. That seems more than decent to me, maybe even noble. If the inquirer must then admit guilt, he does so in order to correct his error or to at least change course going forward.
Of late, I've asked that question of myself. In doing so, the ego part of me runs to the front of the class with hand raised, begging my recognition. The ego has all the answers, knows everything, and is dying to argue for and justify every single choice and action I've made. Jesus said of John the Baptist that, of all men born of woman (do the math), none is greater than he. And in another Gospel, we get a glipse of that greatness when John says of Jesus, "He must increase, I must decrease." So I'm beginning to see that greatness--the epitome of decency--starts with the decrease of self.
Transition does a lot to a person. One option, I've found, is to embark on self-discovery. It's like an inventory check or a pre-trip inspection. Alongside my weekly wrestling match with prayer and scripture, I dug a little deeper into the quiver for some neglected arrows. I brushed the dust off of Napoleon Hill but abandoned him quickly when I noticed my ego standing atop the desk doing a happy dance. Dale Carnegie, however, is showing me how to balance the class.
So far, I've discovered these four things on my journey: (1) Everyone is important; (2) Joy is in others; (3) Everything matters; and (4) Stones are for turning. Being great, or decency at its max, is instinctual; but it must be practiced, as "all fall short of the glory of God." Each day is an opportunity.
I'll say more about these four over the next four weeks.