I read this article the other day. Apparently one of the top questions people ask Google is: “Am I a good person?”
I’ve been pondering why people ask this question and what they actually mean ever since watching a particular episode of Bojack Horseman. If you’re not familiar, Bojack Horseman is a deeply unhappy washed-up celebrity horse who is always doing terrible things to sabotage his own life and his friends’. His friend Diane writes an unflattering biography of him, at which point he asks this question:
How haunting is that?
Later on, Diane tells him, “I’m not sure I believe in deep down. I kind of think all you are is just the things that you do.”
It does seem odd to me that people can do all kinds of terrible things and still maintain “but I’m a good person.” Or that they use that phrase to defend a friend or family member who’s committed some horrible crime. “But she’s a good person…”
I used to think that everyone believes this; that they are essentially a good person. Yes, they do bad or stupid things sometimes, but deep down they are one of the good people, not one of the bad people. But maybe everybody doesn’t believe this, if it’s one of Google’s most popular searches. Maybe a lot of people have the same nagging worry as Bojack. They see themselves doing mean and bad things and secretly wonder, “am I still a good person?”
But what do you even mean? What is this “deep down” place that seems to bear no relation to the things you actually say and think and do? Isn’t hoping there’s some secret other part of you that’s a better, nicer, good person a bit delusional?
I wonder if people asking this question are asking the wrong question. I don’t think that “am I a good person” is exactly what they mean. I think it’s possible that what they actually mean is, “am I still lovable?”
Could somebody really, truly know me and still…?
You can’t really be a Christian and believe you’re a good person. “No-one is good except God alone,” according to Jesus. I don’t believe there’s a line to be drawn between good guys and bad guys, and I certainly don’t believe I’m a good person deep down, regardless of all the crappy things I do. I just believe that I’m loved, regardless of all the crappy things I do. By someone who truly knows every single thing about me. No pretense. And that is a peaceful place to live.
I wish Google could offer this answer to all the worriers typing their existential dread into an incognito search bar.
“Am I a good person?”
“Of course not.”
“Can anybody love me?”