By Ruth Griffiths
Being a “do gooder” can give purpose to your life, it can help you feel better about yourself and the community in which you live.
In a Netflix documentary, Hillary Clinton says her work ethic arose from her Methodist upbringing. She was taught to “Do all the good you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can.” Her lifetime of working for the betterment of her community arose from her childhood religious training.
South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who died Dec. 26, 2021, is mourned around the world because of his anti-apartheid work and for the joy he spread wherever he went. However, you don’t have to be an international figure to do good. Tutu said: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Doing a good deed helps you focus your thoughts outward toward others. It helps you take a step outside your own world for a little while. Being kind to others is a great way to deal with stress. Performing good deeds can have positive effects on your health.
Christians are encouraged to show compassion to people from all walks of life. You don’t have to give away huge sums to do good. Sometimes a good deed can be as simple as giving someone your full attention. Just listening with compassion can be an infinitely good deed.
In both secular and religious circles, people talk about the Golden Rule. It is a universal standard for doing good and living peacefully with our neighbours.
For Christians. the Golden Rule, as stated in the King James version of the Bible, is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” (Matthew 7:12). These words are attributed to Jesus, but that passage echoes Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
I recall a Jewish businessman known for his philanthropy saying “Do a good deed every day… and don’t get caught.” He did good deeds not for the praise, but because it was the right thing to do.
Many other faith traditions promote similar precepts.
Five centuries before Christ, Confucius stated his own Golden Rule: “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”
Islam teaches the ethics of reciprocity … a moral principle which calls upon people to treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”
Buddhism: “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.”
Helping others can create changes in the brain chemistry that are linked with happiness. Helping others can also improve our support networks and encourage us to be more active. This in turn can improve our self-esteem.
So be a “do gooder”, not just because your religion requires it of you, but because it will make you happier and healthier.