10/28/2013 12:21 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2013

Regain the Courage to Be Good

A recent conversation with friend woke me up to a surprising realization: I seem to have regained the courage to be good, after years of hiding behind the cover of evil.

We are born with both good and evil in us. We grow up breathing both, unconsciously. Around middle school, when I started to differentiate between good and evil, a few forces pushed me to intentionally renounce good and embrace evil.

First, being a teenager, I was embarrassed by the "good." Being kind and compassionate seems so un-cool, so preachy. It was what the parents said, which certainly couldn't be right.

Second, I was intrigued by "evil," the tempting power of the devils. The society stands ready to rationalize the evil by calling it "utilitarian self-interests," "survival of the fittest", and so on.

Third, my self-awareness was not clear enough to tell the real motives behind my acts of kindness. Adding to my own confusion, some peers tended to accuse me of hypocrisy or kindness-with-strings-attached -- which, upon introspection, was sometimes true.

Embarrassed by my hypocrisy, disappointed by my lack of pure goodness, and fearful of the accusation from my peers, I decided to abandon "good" altogether, and embrace evil -- and owning it. I thought, if I never claim to be good (loving, kind, compassionate, generous) in the first place, then no one can call me a hypocrite. If I own my evilness (selfish, calculated, manipulative, cynical), and if the society glorifies evil as the normal state of the business, then I am given the get-out-of-jail-free card. How convenient!

So, I accepted the bargain from Mephistopheles. For the past few years, I more or less hid behind the cover of evil, to protect the vulnerable, gentle part of the heart. And Mephistopheles indeed had his power. Calculated self-interests got me what I wanted. But what I want is not what I need. I had "material success," but bore the burden of the conscience. The gain of worldly points is no match to the loss of spiritual peace. I knew something wasn't right. I knew it wasn't sustainable, but seemed to be trapped in my own set-up. How can I back out of the cocoon of evil that I have spun for myself?

The thick ice melts slowly, but the summer bike journey across the U.S. served as the decisive strike, with burning sunshine penetrating through years of closed shell. The kindness of strangers along the way, the many free meals, soft beds, and encouraging smiles blasted through my last layer of defense. Listening to the spiritual classics for 8 hours a day, day after day, also helped to cleanse the soul.

I realized, good and evil is a choice, and it is my choice. For too long, I have shied away from embracing the good because of my own doubt, embarrassment and fear. I did not have the courage to be kind, out of the fear that people might call it hypocrisy. I did not have the courage to be good, out of the doubt that my faith in good is not strong enough.

But now, the heart and courage is being rehabilitated. Now I know what is good, and what is evil. I have the courage to be good, while confronting the stubborn roots of evil inside of me. I am regaining the muscle of love that has suffered much atrophy for many years. It will feel awkward, artificial, or even hypocritical. But I am no longer afraid. Because, good or evil, it is a choice. It is my choice.

And yours, too.

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