What to look for in others

What would happen if you oriented more often towards the basic goodness in other people?

Not some simplistic, positive-thinking way of pretending to yourself that everyone around you is nice or has your best interests at heart. That way lies a comforting and often harmful kind of self-delusion.

No, actually looking for the genuine goodness in each person that may not even be known to themselves. And trusting that everybody has it – is it – simply by virtue of being human.

Being able to find this in others might take some patient observation and discernment on your part, some practice. So that you’re not guessing. And so that you can overcome your own cynicism, disappointment, or frustration.

You might get a clue by observing closely what another person most consistently tries to take care of, even if inexpertly. Justice and fairness, looking after people, achieving important goals, bringing a unique and personal expression, developing knowledge and understanding, keeping options and possibilities open, having things actually happen, harmony and coherence – these are but a few examples.

Finding the basic goodness in others and in ourselves is a powerful project because it gives us something to rely on as we navigate the complexities of work and the rest of life alongside other people.

When we can’t see it we’re easily locked in a cycle of mistrust, defensiveness and judgement, seeing ourselves and others only as accidents waiting to happen.

But with it firmly in view, we have the best chance to call on and bring out what’s most noble and dignified in each of us – the part of us that wants to serve life even in the depths of our most troubling confusion, conflict and uncertainty.

Photo by Kate Atkinson


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