When we are young we are taught that rewards come to those who are good. Good grades, good behaviour, good work, we learn, guarantee recognition and the next big opportunity. A place in a new school. A prize. A degree. A job.
And so as adults we come to think that being good will save us: from pain, confusion, failure, and from having to face life. If we’re good, the world will bring us what we want, and what we need. If we’re good, we secretly hope, we’ll be spared illness, and perhaps even death. People seen as good, we think, are exempt from all of that.
Growing up – whenever it comes – means finally finding out that none of this is true.
The world is not set up to guarantee, or owe, anything. It is not waiting for you to show how good you are. There is nobody to save you from life itself.
We’d better do our best, most important work not because of what it will bring us, or because of how it will look to others, but for its own sake, then.