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Trying to Be Good

My mild-mannered rescue dog stands guard from the porch, surveying in all directions, ever on the look-out. She loves to bark at the deer and smaller animals that wander into the yard. Each time I remind her to stop by saying, “No bark!” Still, the next critter that rambles in receives her verbal wrath.

Then she looks at me with her sweet eyes, as if to say, “I’m trying. Really I am.” Try as she might, my pup falls short when it comes to being good all the time. We too fall short. After all, we are human and have faults of our own.

Like my pup, I have heard this narrative my entire life. As a small child I was rewarded for being good; discipled when I wasn’t. Like most children, the set of expectations for how I should behave was laid out before me. As I grew and aged, I sometimes challenged those expectations, knowing that I would face consequences whenever I did so.

Living a life of faith comes with expectations, as well. As we look for examples in the Bible, probably one of the most familiar is found in the Old Testament. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, a set of expectations or rules to live by. The common thread through them all is respect. Respect and love of God and of neighbor; respect of self and others; respect of property. (See Exodus 21:1-17)

Looking at the Ten Commandments, I am tempted to pat myself on the back. After all, I have not killed anyone. I was faithful to my husband. I protected my neighbor and their stuff instead of wishing it was mine. All well and good, but…

What about when I gossip? That can be hurtful. And the little white lies I tell to spare someone’s feelings. Okay. So maybe I should not be so quick to name myself as righteous.

I try to be good, I really do. And I seek to do good, yet often fall short. Some days I even wonder why I bother to strive for such goodness because it seems so difficult.

Then I pause and regain my sensible thinking. I center my mind and heart on the Creator, opening again the lines of communication through prayer. It’s amazing how well this can get me back on track. How, when I refocus, things become more clear.

Daily, as a part of my quiet time with God, I offer up my praise. I lay my short-comings before the Lord, receiving forgiveness and a second chance. I ask God to guide me each day.

It’s not easy to own up to my mis-steps. There are times when I judge myself too harshly for something I said or did. I berate myself for these events, playing them over and over in my mind. I do this even though I know better.