Why Be Good? What Exactly Does It Mean to Be Good?

My professor asked our class, “WHY BE GOOD?” Before I give my reasons on why someone should be good, I wanted to first define the word “good”, and discover what “good” means to different people and cultures. The definition of good as stated by oxforddictionaries.com is, “To be desired or approved of.” What this definition means to me is that anything that an individual approves of or deems right by their standards is good. Specifically, slavery was seen as good because of the benefits that slave owners gained from having slaves; however, African Americans didn’t see slavery as good. But why was slavery seen as good in the first place? One reason why I think slavery was acceptable is because the bible was used to justify slavery. Today, we know that people, from the biblical days and present day, interpreted slavery wrong. Another example of good is the consumption of animals that may consider pets, such as cats and dogs. China, South Korea, Vietnam and some parts of South America find it acceptable to consume cat and dog meat. To us Americans, “it is an appalling thought to eat our pets,” but who are we to decide that eating cats and dogs isn’t good? (Cohen, 2014) This further proves that what one culture deems good or acceptable, the other may not; and the reasons that I will list of why someone should be good may not be acceptable by someone else. The reasons why I believe people should be good is because of the benefits of doing good and to prevent punishment.

People should be good because of the benefits that they receive from being good. Children learn at an early age that when they do things that are approved by their parents, they get rewarded. For example, my brothers would always bring home bad grades, which made my mother angry. I was the one who took my grade more serious, and I believe that my mother thought that if she rewarded me for bringing home good grades, my brothers would start to take school more serious. So, whenever I brought home a report card that my mother approved of, I was rewarded. My brothers saw the rewards that I received and were secretly persuaded by my mother to get good grades. Their acceptable grades lead to the benefit of receiving rewards.

Society plays a big role in what we can and can’t do; so, people should be good to prevent punishment. For instance, smoking marijuana was once against the law in all states in the U.S., and if caught, you would be arrested. Marijuana was not accepted in the U.S. because of the dangers associated with it. However, I know that in some countries that marijuana has been approved by their government with very low age restrictions. People should also be good to prevent punishment from parents. For example, in my family, the worse thing to do was talk back to our mother and we were punished with whippings. In my family, and in most families, whippings were apart of child rearing; but, some people are trying to call it child abuse. So, whippings are seen as right and beneficial to one group of people, while it is seen as wrong to another group of people. One final example of why people should be good is to prevent punishment in schools. To illustrate, plagiarism is one of the most serious rules that, if broken, can get you put out of school. To prevent getting kicked out of school, then students should be good and not plagiarize.

In short, to be “good” is to be doing anything that is deemed as acceptable by your own standards. Since this is the case, what is good to one person, culture, or family might be bad for another. People should be good because of benefits, such as being rewarded and to prevent punishment.


Cohen, S. (2014) Suspicious Activity Detected. Retrieved 20 Jan 2015, from: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/man-bites-dog-its-legal-to-eat-dogs-and-cats-in-44-states-101714.html.

Good: definition of good in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US). Retrieved 20 Jan 2015, from: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/good.


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