Being Well by Doing Good

A simple Google search will return many nuanced variations to the terms doing well, being well, doing good, and being good. I established my perspective on this concept in an earlier blog, Being versus Doing. While Doing and Being are related, it is the order they come in that is critical. Society likes to define who we are by what we do and accomplish. Instead, what we do should flow from who we are.

The terms “doing good” and “doing well” also have different meanings. “Doing good” refers to “performing good deeds.” Contrastingly, “doing well” refers to “how you are” or your “state of being.” When asked, “how are you doing?” I avoid the typical response of “good’ by always answering “well.”

Aristotle originated the concept of eudaimonia. The state or condition of good spirit, or well-being. He thought that true happiness is found by leading a virtuous life and doing what is worth doing. Eudaimonic theories of well-being assert the importance of achieving one’s full potential through engagement in meaningful endeavors. Eudaimonic behaviors are related to greater well-being. Doing good is an important avenue by which people create meaningful and satisfying lives.

Buddhist monk and psychologist Jack Kornfield said in an interview, cultivating a joyful spirit can help not only us, but the people around us—especially when things are hard. “Our gift to the world comes as much through our being and presence, our smile and touch, our sense of possibility and the mystery of human life, as it does in the specifics of what we do.”

We can all practice the elements to a more sustained well-being, like gratitude, mindfulness, and compassion. Taking care of our well-being need not be entirely a selfish pursuit. People with high well-being are more likely to care about the problems of the world and take action to alleviate suffering. They tend to be more involved citizens— they vote, volunteer, and participate in community activities. They are optimistic and have high levels of trust.

Being well is an evaluation against our true north or purpose, not necessarily scoring the merits of our actions. Doing good and being well must work hand in hand. In sports, Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds were driven to do great things, yet their actions were less than ethical. Consider ENRON and its need for financial achievements. Good deeds while still sinning.

People are eager to do virtuous side projects instead of simply living life honorably. The mantra “Give back” is a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid $20 million second homes and seldom used $1 million private jets, giving back is a joke, made to relieve a slightly troubled conscious with relatively inexpensive good deeds. Generally, these have little impact on the fundamentals of one’s life.

Ever since Benjamin Franklin counseled Americans to “do well by doing good,” individuals and companies have debated the proper mix of capitalism and philanthropy in society. Businesses want to be well through investing in social impact, sustainability, and philanthropy. They would fund a thousand buzzwordy programs rather than fundamentally alter their own behavior. Doing the right things, on the front end, would involve real sacrifice. Instead, it’s easier to focus on pet projects and initiatives. For example, does the world need more food companies donating playgrounds to children, or rather reformed food companies that don’t profit from fattening children?

While there is a business case for doing good, an organization must make a conscious decision to prioritize this over the long term. A growing body of evidence shows that ethical companies outperform financially over time. Translating a future outcome into short-term planning metrics is dubious. They must emphasize the intangible and existential over the specific and measurable.

A definition of love is willing the good of another. The more compassionate we are with others, the more we experience their compassion and the more likely we are to survive and flourish. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, it results in loving ourselves more. This will then enable us to love our neighbor even more, which enables us to love ourselves more. A self-feeding loop.

The only words we need to hear are, “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant.” Fr. Emil Kapaun was a military chaplain and POW of the Korean War who died at the young age of 35. Called a “shepherd in combat boots” his selfless efforts on the battlefield and devotion to his regiment in the prison camp, arose from his commitment to be a servant of God. He earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously, and is on the path to canonization in the Catholic Church. “One life to live, will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

In Acts 10:38, Peter described Jesus as one who “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The snare of the devil is also referred to in 2 Timothy 2:26, which notes that to be rescued from deception and sin, we must return to our senses (repent – do good) and come to a knowledge of the truth (be well).

A line from the FCA Competitor’s Creed is taken direct from Galatians 6:8-9, “Because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.” This builds off scripture from the Old Testament in Micah 6:8, “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

As a Christian, being well and doing good must work hand in hand. Achieving our full potential and purpose here in man’s world requires we be well, love God, and know the Truth while we do good, love our neighbor, and move His kingdom forward.

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