By Lorraine Glowczak
“I know you have a soft spot for him, but he has done absolutely nothing good for me,” my friend said, sharing her disappointment about a mutual acquaintance. I attempted to clarify that there may be more to the story than what she could see, when she stopped me midsentence. “What your problem is, is that you only see the good in everyone.” We laughed, and I agreed it was true. “I am often disappointed and get bitten in the behind, a lot. In fact, it’s a wonder I have a behind left,” I joked.
Since that conversation, along with the recent shooting at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburg, PA, I began to question my “good is in everyone” philosophy. But it seems I’m not alone. While searching for a quote for this publication, I came across these words penned by Anne Frank, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
Anne Frank was just a young teenager when she authored that sentence. I wonder if she would have still held that belief had she survived the concentration camp, especially after all she had experienced and witnessed while in profoundly miserable captivity.
The question regarding whether humans are innately good or bad has existed since time began. Ancient philosophers and religious leaders each had their differing theories on the subject. Some stated that we are basically good but are corrupted by society while others opted for the thought that we are born basically bad but are kept in check by society.
It seems that recent scientific studies indicate that we are good at heart, in spite of it all. In his doctoral research at Harvard University, Adrian F. Ward discovered that “….we tend to act based on our intuitive and automatic impulses…willing to give for the good of the group even when it comes at our own personal expense.”
This is not the only evidence I found that reflected Ward’s study, other psychologists and social scientists have come to the same conclusion. I searched for some evidence that people are innately bad but was unable to find such. All research led me to this basic conclusion: We instinctively prefer good over evil.
Research is one thing, but experience is another. This past Tuesday, October 30, I was one of the 1,500 individuals who attended the Community Vigil at Congregation Be Ha’am in South Portland to honor and remember those who lost their lives in Pittsburg. The gathering of people from different walks of life coming together to support people they did not know who lived in another state illustrated the compassion humans have for one another and, in spite of everything, have a truly good heart.
I don’t know if Anne Frank would have remained true to her philosophy had she lived, but I will go to my grave believing that we are all basically good, and I will continue to see value in everyone. It may be true that a portion of my backside will be completely missing upon my death, but in spite of it all, I will take that over the absence of my heart.