10 traits to tell good from evil
Lately I've been thinking about defining characteristics of good and evil. I am a person of faith, so initially I might have been tempted to say simply that good adheres to the commandments of God, or at least to the tenets of a religion. But that's too easy. First of all, not everyone believes in God. In addition, concepts of God vary widely. And finally, I'm not sure all religions are uniformly good!
So I pondered, "What if I were not a person of faith? What if I didn't belong to any religion at all? Surely, I'd still recognize that some principles and behaviors are good and beneficial while others are destructive — even evil.
So I started reflecting on specific traits that I've observed to be good vs those I've found to be ultimately evil. They actually have little if anything to do with any specific religion. But I believe they're valid markers. So I'll offer a list of my "Top Ten Traits." Feel free to add some of your own in your comments.
1. Good builds and creates. Evil tears down and destroys.
1a. As a corollary, good has beneficial long-range goals and plans. Good aspires to accomplish something positive. Evil exists only to oppose, mock, and heap scorn.
2. Good has a sense of humor. Evil has little or no sense of humor. In other words, good finds joy and laughter in life. Evil may indulge in gloating, smirking, and gleeful derision, but it virtually never laughs at the delightful humor inherent in the human condition.
2a. As a corollary, good appreciates and often employs self-deprecatory humor. Evil never does.
3. Good doesn't stir others up to anger. Evil elevates that to an art form. Stirring up anger in others is the fundamental basis of how evil operates.
4. Good is willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. Evil loves to accuse others. It's no accident that Satan's name means "The Accuser."
5. Good is willing to personally sacrifice for the benefit of others. Evil has no interest in personal sacrifice and in fact elevates itself above others and views them as inferior and unworthy of any sacrifice.
5a. A corollary is that good focuses on others first, which is the main ingredient of genuine love. I have a simple definition of genuine love of any kind: "love is when your happiness is necessary for my happiness." Evil has no interest in love and generally views it as a weakness.
5b. An additional corollary is that if evil ever feigns any interest in the welfare of others, it's only for the purpose of imposing and enforcing the oxymoron of "compulsory charity."
6. Good is willing to defer gratification and take a long-term approach to accomplish lasting benefit. Evil demands satisfaction right now.
7. Good cherishes truth. Good is willing to revise its narrative to fit the truth. Evil revises the truth to fit its narrative.
8. Good rarely and judiciously employs the principle that the end justifies the means. That principle is evil's default operating system.
9. Good is humble. Evil is arrogant.
10. Good focuses on opportunity. Evil focuses on outcomes.
I employ the above traits in evaluating any kind of human endeavor — whether it's interpersonal, business-related, or even religious. In particular, I employ these traits when evaluating political candidates, policies, and parties. I'm not saying any individual or any entity falls 100% into the evil category. No one is always good or always evil. But as a general rule, I've found when the above good traits are displayed and employed, there is usually good intent, and ultimately, good things result.