How to Cultivate Goodness Through a Sober, Giving Life

How to Cultivate Goodness Through a Sober, Giving Life

We are suffering from a huge increase in mood and anxiety disorders, stress, narcissism, loneliness, intolerance, and a lack of purpose. Americans, in particular, are prone to increasingly low rates of unhappiness according to several major studies. Why should this be the case? How did we arrive in the 21st century so full of personal and societal ills?

My diagnosis is both simple and profound: we suffer from a deficit of goodness. That’s the bad news. The “good” news is that the solution is simple and profound as well. But solving the problem will take a concerted effort at establishing nothing less than a culture of goodness across the world: a movement to re-balance the negativity in our world.

What is Goodness?

Goodness is a genuine and thoughtful approval of others’ existence showing itself in myriad forms of kindness. Based on the conviction that others’ claim to well-being and happiness is as valid as our own, it is about being ready to do our part in improving the lives of as many people as possible. The truly important feature of being good is doing good, and the scope of that doing is limited only by our willingness to give.

Ultimately, goodness is made possible by a remarkable feature of human beings: the ability to suspend our ongoing preoccupation over our well being to focus on someone else’s.-Arthur P. Ciaramicoli

Goodness is something that happens during times of selflessness. Goodness is defined as empathy in action, understanding what a person needs and unselfishly improving their life by supplying what is missing.

At its best, being good means giving goodness. It is in that giving precedence to the other over the self that being good consists. Actions like driving someone to an AA or NA meeting when they have no transportation, calling a close friend you know has “picked up” and feels ashamed to be seen by anyone. Letting him or her know that recovery is a process that seldom occurs with ease or without slips and slides.

The most profound aspect of goodness comes when we take the time to listen and respond with accurate feedback to those we love, the courage of giving when we supply what a person needs the most not what they may want the most. Telling a friend or loved one with tact and a motive to help that the person is drinking too much, getting angry too often, mistreating their spouse, are all acts of goodness. When goodness is put into action it is surely the best part of human beings, with the greatest potential for improving our world

Why Do We Need Goodness Resurgence Now?

We are living in a time of anxiety and uncertainty, feeling that we have lost our way. Goodness is the way. A true rediscovery of goodness is not just an option, it is a necessity.

After the 2011 Tucson killing rampage, President Obama spoke about the need for empathy at the funeral of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. He pleaded with Americans to make their democracy “as good as she imagined it.” Shortly thereafter one of the victims went to the shooters’ parents’ home to let them know he could empathize with their pain. He wanted them to know he didn’t blame them. It was a true act of goodness. This man’s beautiful heart did not make front-page news—an instance of our propagation of the bad and minimization of the good.

Yet again in 2015, our president and many spiritual leaders ask for empathy in the wake of the tragedies in Missouri and Baltimore. Empathy, the heart of goodness, continues to be the necessary tool to stop our aggression toward our fellow man, but just as important is the power of empathy and goodness to enhance our self esteem and keep our minds and hearts free of drugs of all kinds. These critical qualities allow us to take care of others the way many of us have been cared for in dire times.

In my 35 years of clinical practice I have worked with many recovering alcoholics and addicts. I have never seen such acts of goodness than I have witnessed in the AA program. It is remarkable how many with decades of recovery continue to give selfishly to others long after they were guided to a sober life. Those who give in such an unselfish fashion know that they receive as much as they give, giving creates what has been called “helper’s high”.

The goodness of giving causes chemical changes within us that make us feel alive, worthwhile and meaningful too many. The release of endorphins that makes helper’s high possible has a positive impact upon our health and spirit.

Most importantly giving to those suffering in addiction reminds you to be humble and grateful for those who helped you on the road to a recovery, moments when you probably thought sobriety was impossible.

Be the Change

Let’s give goodness the prominent position it deserves in recovery and in life.

If you have suffered through an addiction and have lost your self-worth and dignity you probably wondered if you would ever regain a healthy life. If so, you know what it means to be given to unselfishly in the very uncertain times when addiction has imprisoned your soul. Setting another person’s spirit free is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another and yourself.

Now that you now have regained the goodness that was buried within you through the help of several virtuous people you know what it means to be cared for in your darkest hour.

The degree to which we are able to give to the world is determined by the degree to which we are a friend to ourselves. Be kind to yourself and grateful for the help you received to free your spirit. Now it is time to give the goodness you re-captured within yourself to all those struggling in your midst.




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