Most of us want to make the world a better place. We may have different reasons, but in the end most people want that. So how do we begin to do that?
The reality is that we already change the world by every action we take. But to change the world for the better we need to be conscious of our actions to determine if they make the world better or worse.
Many of us "do good" by supporting causes financially or volunteering or giving blood. That's work we do for others. But all too often we forget that "being good" helps others and makes the world a better place.
We've been exploring Russ Roberts' book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. Smith gives us guidance in how to be "lovely", which basically describes how to "be good." When we are prudent, just, and beneficent we act in ways that benefit the world.
Roberts writes, "One person acting alone has no impact yet all of us together determine the outcome."
Personally, I believe one person acting alone has impact on other people which can influence the outcome because any act that influences another makes your act more powerful. We are not alone in impacting the world.
When we do not speak out about behaviors that negatively impact the world we are enabling them. We don't have to be aggressively confrontational, but we do need to celebrate and applaud the morals that leave a positive impact. When I was working in the prison setting I often shared space in the staff dining room with the security officers. Sometimes their jokes were racist or sexist. Rather than laugh at these jokes I would state quietly that I found the joke offensive. And when I heard of some positive act they had done I went out of my way to tell them that I appreciated that behavior. One part of making the world better is to be "lovely" and to choose our responses to unlovely behavior.
"When we honor bad people or avoid good people, we are playing a role in degrading the world around us. It's a small role, almost negligible. But together, our combined actions are decisive. Each step we take away from loveliness is a step away from civilation. As more and more of us take those steps, or seemingly negligible actions are no longer negligible. Through our actions, we create the norms and rules of what is attractive and what is unattractive.." Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.What if we all acted "lovely"? Certainly the world would be a better place. How do we get more of us to act lovely? The rewards to be had from being "lovely" need to be increased. Being nice needs us to reward nice behavior rather than unlovely behavior, to trust, to applaud, to approve, to celebrate, ro honor niceness/loveliness. Each time you reward another's trust or go the extra mile for them, you are encouraging others to do the same.
Honoring honorable behavior sends a reward for being honorable. Refusing to pass on gossip, even when it is true, breaks an unvirtuous circle. Refusing to laugh at the joke that comes at someon's expense, you are sparing that someone pain and refusing to reward cruelty. "Being good isn't just good for you and those around you. It encourages others to be good." (Roberts)
It's easy to take the pessimistic view that nothing you do can really make a difference in the world. Yet even the smallest thing can create consequences. Think your one action can't make a difference?
Consider the idea of one step of a journey having no impact on the outcome. Each step determines direction and progress or digress. When an airplane is flying from one city to another, the calculations of the naviation decide where the plane ends up. One degree off and it could end the flight in a very different place than intended.
"If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone's feelings, even when it is clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone else's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others to be good as well. Set a good example, and by your loneliness you will not only be loved, but you may influence the world." Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.You have power in your influence. When you join with others being good, the power to make a positive difference is multiplied exponentially.