Join the Goodhood

The need to coin a new word depends on the magnitude of the problems that arise from its absence. In that context, I submit the word “goodhood” as long overdue.

The “good” in goodhood refers to people whose intention is to act in a manner that is beneficial for their own as well as others’ health and well-being.

The “hood” in the word refers to the entire group of people who act this way.

Jesus succinctly defined those in the goodhood in Matthew 7:16 – “By their fruits you will know them”. Jesus did not mince words; everyone whose actions result in “good fruits” is part of the goodhood.

Five hundred years before Jesus, the Buddha warned a questioning teenager what to look for in dangerous leaders –      …those with qualities based on greed, hatred, or delusion such that they urge others to act in ways that promote harm or pain. These words define the qualities of those who are not part of the goodhood.

Now that the word exists as a defined concept, goodhood can add momentum to the number and impact of good works. Just the awareness of goodhood accomplishes this in three ways:

  1. Providing social proof,
  2. Counteracting tribal instinct, and
  3. Reducing the fear of isolation.

Providing Social Proof

Social proof is a term for the psychological phenomena that explain the human tendency to be more likely to do or believe something if others are doing or believing it.

For example, neighbors are more likely to turn down their thermostats if they believe others in the neighborhood are turning down theirs. In this situation social proof is a more important factor affecting behavior than knowing the facts about global warming.

The lack of “social proof” can be a powerful brake on beneficial behavior. On the other hand, consciously realizing that there are millions in the goodhood, who are by definition choosing to be beneficial, is powerful social proof.

Counteracting Tribal Instinct

The parable of The Good Samaritan is a great example of how the actions of the goodhood cross tribal boundaries. It is not a coincidence that Jesus chose to tell the story of a Samaritan, someone outside the accepted social order, as being kindhearted to one in need.

We tend to compartmentalize our good deeds – our church, our nonprofit, our nation- rather than celebrating the ecumenical nature of goodness.

The Fear of Being Different

This trait is well ingrained in our psyches. Choosing to be beneficial as one’s primary mode of action and knowing that others are doing the same reduces the need to fit in with the less-than-uplifting norms of one’s culture.

In a world that requires leadership at all levels, the need to counteract these three tendencies is not trivial.

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Pollyanna (the 1913 children’s book) illustrates the power of good actions. In this story a young girl’s persistently optimistic philosophy transforms a previously dreary Vermont town into a cheerful, supportive place to live.

However, in a complete reversal of the original theme of the story, the term “Pollyanna” has come to mean “an excessively or blindly optimistic person.”

I might be called a Pollyanna for suggesting that coining the word goodhood could make much of a difference in the world. But after writing this, I’ve lost my fear of being different, so it doesn’t matter.

Breakthrough To Better,
Carl

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