This morning I heard someone say something that struck me as extraordinary: “If I make good choices, I can be a blessing to those around me, even to people I don’t know.” I happened to be in a church and the person who said this was giving the sermon, which made it even more unusual in my experience.
I can’t recall having heard anyone, least of all a religious person, name being a blessing to others as a reason for making good choices. Parents, teachers, and advisors often recommend good choices as a way to avoid unpleasant consequences. In religious circles, however, the most common rationale for choosing good is to garner divine favor: make good choices so that God will bless you. Such a quid pro quo arrangement has broad appeal because it is a familiar way of doing business for most people. After all, it is far more comfortable to approach the Almighty with a business proposition than to approach as a supplicant, which are the two positions most readily assumed when dealing with someone in power.
The speaker’s observation doesn’t take any of these tacks. The point of his sermon, in fact, was that weal and woe befall do-gooders and evil-doers alike; therefore, choosing good is neither insurance against misfortune nor assurance of good fortune. What reason is there then to make good choices? Why should we care how we choose, since we can’t guarantee anything for ourselves thereby?
The fact remains that our decisions affect others, directly and indirectly, those around us and those we don’t even see. Our choices do make a difference, even if they don’t make the difference we’d like them to make. We can still choose good in hopes that our choices may prove to be a blessing to others.
That’s an argument that even an atheist would find compelling.