Part four - Obstacles to achieving goodness

From lectures by Dennis Prager at the University of Judaism. Order his series How to be Good from DP's office at www.dennisprager.com.

The first problem is absorption with the self.

The more you are absorbed with yourself, the less you can give. That's why children are so selfish.

We begin utterly consumed by ourselves.

Another major problem to being good is laziness.

Goodness takes effort. That's another reason why the world is naturally tilted towards the bad, because it takes nothing to be bad.

You've got to do something good or suppress something bad, to be a good person, unless you're one of those rare persons who are naturally predisposed towards being goood.

Different persons have different degrees of struggle to be good.

The third obstacle to being good is weakness.

Goodness takes courage and courage is a rare quality by definition. If something comes easily to you, you don't need courage to do it.

Number four. The greatest single obstacle to being good is lack of empathy.

I suspect that empathy is more built in to some persons than others.

Empathy is a definition for goodness.

Empathy means appreciating that everyone else is as real as you are. When you do, life changes.

Please do this exercise. Everyday once, stop yourself and look at the persons around you and say to yourself - "Every one of them has as many hopes, dreams, desires, hurts, loves as I do."

The fifth obstacle to goodness is thinking that what you do doesn't matter.

The world is so screwed up, what difference will it make to do a good deed?

But the moment you realize that everyone is an entire universe, then helping one person is all you have to do.

I'm so convinced by this that I don't hustle enough to touch more persons that I have to be coerced to reach out. Only on occasion do I get frustrated that I don't reach more persons.

Doctors only help a small number of persons, but to the person whose nostril he's fixing, that deed is greatly important.

Only few persons have the opportunity to touch a large number of persons. And those who can do great good, can usually only do it by combatting massive evils, not by doing great good. Gorbachev did great good by dismantling an evil empire. Now, promoting good in the former Soviet Union will be the work of tens of millions.

We don't think enough about doing a little good. Good is produced antlike. A good example is the freeway. For traffic to flow smoothly, thousands of drivers have to drive properly. For traffic to tie up, you only need one person to do the wrong thing.

Another reason that people aren't more good is that other things interest them more than goodness.

Understand how tempting it is to value other things more.

Values that transcend goodness for many include art, patriotism, equality, religion, law, popularity, health, success, happiness...

Figure out what you value highly. Do you put it above goodness? What are your temptations?

Because you have to place values in perspective and choose between conflicting values, the key to a good life is thinking. You've got to sort through different values and figure out how much you value them in your behavior.


By Luke Ford

On KABC radio AM 790, Dennis Prager began his show by telling a story. He was driving with his best friend Joseph Telushkin in Manhattan New York. He saw cars avoiding the middle lane. A man, one of the local drunks, lay there bleeding. And all the cars drove by. Prager stopped and carried the man to the sidewalk.

Dennis was commenting on a news story where a man directs traffic away from an injured lady. Motorists swore at the man directing traffic.

How do you drive away from an injured person? Prager thinks that as many folks would drive away from a wounded person as a wounded animal.

DP says Americans lack empathy.

A caller relayed this story: A limo driver was trying to change a tire in the snow. A man finally stopped to help. The customer in the limo asked the man what he could give him. Nothing said the man. The customer insisted. Man said he could send flowers to his wife. A few days later, flowers arrived with a note. The customer, Donald Trump, had paid off the couple's mortgage.

Prager got the chills thinking about the story.

Next caller said people worried about getting sued. That's why they would not move an injured person.

DP: The legal system - lawyers, politicians, judges, jury - has hurt this country more than any other system.

P did not even consider fear of lawsuit in his reasons for why folks acted the way they did.

A man phoned to describe a heroic deed he did at one car accident. Caller said he probably would not have done the right thing except that his son was with him, and he wanted to set a good example.

Caller voiced fear of set up if he came across a lonely site of an accident. Prager said he would call from his car phone.

Other reasons for lack of helping those in need:

· Americans have been taught to rely on government to take care of problems, instead of doing things themselves. I pay lots of taxes so that someone else will take care of things for me.

· Americans' growing mistrust of strangers. Americans have increasing less sense of kinship. We have less in common. Community has been breaking down. Prager disagrees with telling children to not talk to strangers.

· The notion of "shoulds" has declined. Prager grew up learning that he should do many things, and that he should not do many things. But now morality has been overcome by psychology, self actualization and health concerns. Prager stopped to help the drunk because Jewish Law had taught him that he had to do that.

Prager began his second hour asking for callers who were optimistic about the moral health of America.

A female caller and Prager agreed that America is experiencing a spiritual renaissance.

Most of Prager's show would be familiar to regular listeners - how to most effectively produce goodness. Dennis preferred relying on laws rather than relying on the heart. It is better to give because religious law requires you to give charity, than to give because you think it is right.