If we don’t believe we deserve goodness, it is hard to believe anyone else does either. We distribute soul health, or we distribute shame.
We fight for this in our own lives, so we can fight for it in everyone else’s. We believe it for ourselves, so we can believe it for others. Grab hold of this truth, so you can look someone else in the eye and assure them they are worthy of good things, no matter what they’ve been told. Folks full of goodness are the ones we need. They are our best teachers, our kindest leaders, our healthiest parents, our most generous friends. Do this work, so you can pour it back out on the people you love and live by, serve and cherish.
Fierce self-compassion pays its greatest dividends in the way we are able to love. Insist that you are worth the work, because the people you adore are worth your best.
We don’t just look backward to reclaim goodness but forward to claim what does not yet exist. You deserve good things still! You have a lot of pavement left. Maybe this is the moment in your life you finally believe it. You can’t relive the days behind you, but you sure can reimagine the days to come. It is never too late. I am 45 and in full possession of this knowledge: this is all we get and it is going fast. One life, one body, one family, one shot. My patron saint Anne Lamott put it like this:
“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”
This ridiculous world is chock-full of goodness! It is everywhere. It is yours. It was always meant for your pleasure and participation. No one else is more or less deserving of living this delicious life with gusto. What does goodness look like to you? Is it healthy relationships full of connection and joy? Exciting dreams where you put your hand to the plow and do what you were made for? Freedom to be who you are as you are? Liberation from a toxic person or place? Slowing down? Amping up? You are the person to claim it. No one is going to do this for you, especially if they are dependent on the status quo you help maintain. This is your work, yours to say I deserve this wonderful thing, and I don’t deserve this lesser thing. Goodness abounds; it just needs your compliance. Even if you’ve royally screwed up your life, your family, your career. Even if you only experienced harm and have no precedence for good things. Even if you are the difficult person in the equation. Even if you did the worst thing, the thing you hate most. Even if no one in your world believes it. Even if everyone in your world believes it but you. Like I said, there is always a path home to the goodness we were born for. Maybe it starts with some hard work:
Drawing boundaries, speaking up, creating safety. Asking forgiveness, making amends, taking responsibility. Prioritizing recovery, healing, soul care. Working on sobriety, mental health, addiction. Saying, “I’m sorry,” “I hurt you,” “I want more for us.” Saying, “I hear you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m still here.” Saying, “I forgive you from afar but will never reengage for my future.” Drawing near to God in that way children do to their mothers ... or coming back after having been away. Naming big dreams, new goals, hidden hopes.
Closing the door gently on what is behind and throwing it open for what is ahead.
Goodness must be fought for. It doesn’t come easily in this harsh world that insists we prioritize cynicism, anger, fear, shame. Fury is better currency, frankly. Despair or inertia bob along the waters without any help. Our cultural equilibrium will not naturally settle on The Deserved Goodness of Humanity. It has too many enemies conspiring to unbalance the equation: power, patriarchy, fear, regret. If you still struggle to imagine it for yourself, could you imagine it for your children, your beloved people? Is it so hard to envision a world in which they deserve good things and not harm?
This work begins in our minds, transfers to our expectations, materializes through our words, and emerges through our actions. You know when you see a woman who has done this work. She is full of joy and generosity; she loves herself well, which seems rare these days. She is hung up on exactly none of the garbage the rest of us are. She laughs and loves demonstratively. You never catch her absolving small behavior but calling people to live big, love big, dream big, forgive big. You know her dreams because she is chasing them; she feels worthy of their importance. She employs healthy boundaries with people who prefer her subservience, and their dis- approval doesn’t define her. This alone feels miraculous, yes? She is absolutely certain, and you could not convince her otherwise, that everyone deserves goodness, and you won’t catch a whiff of jealousy, schadenfreude, or superiority. She knows she is loved, so she knows everyone is loved, even when they don’t know it and act out of brokenness.
You know her, because at some point in your life, she has probably loved you well.
I am determined to be this woman. Join me.