Sunday, August 19, 2012

To Be Good for Goodness Sake

As this 6 weeks in Jordan draws to a close, I have begun to reflect on the experiences I've had. I feel profound gratitude for the wonderful opportunities to connect with great people. During bus rides this week I have been reading a book about Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Literacy, and have made some discoveries that I hope will help me in my personal life and also help me reach out to my students when I return to Abu Dhabi. It has reminded me of the importance of the underlying motivations behind our actions. This is something that I struggle with and have plenty of room to improve.

The last time I volunteered for an extended period of time was in South Africa in 2004. That was before the advent of Facebook. I kept a journal of my experiences there, but never published it publicly. I sent journal entries to a few family members and friends who were interested in what I was up to, but the rest of the world was ignorant to my whereabouts. This experience in Jordan has been much more public and that has brought with it new challenges. I think that it's important to raise awareness about injustices in this world and to try to inspire people to take actions to make a difference in the world. But with posting on facebook, I have felt uncomfortable about receiving public praise. While I'm grateful for the encouragement of family and friends, it is so much easier to receive it in private than in public. I think that many of us struggle with seeking for the approval of others too much and if I am honest with myself, I must admit that I fall into this category. But I never want my idealistic actions to be motivated by a desire for public recognition. I want to be motivated by my love for humans. But I must admit that the lure of public acknowledgement and approval is very seductive.

I have struggled most of my life with this issue of “goodness.” As a teenager, I resented when others labelled me as a “good girl.” As a young adult, upon arriving in South Africa, the children somehow picked up on this gave me the African name “Nokulunga,” which means "good girl" in isiZulu. I spent the next 1.5 years in South Africa coming to terms and then embracing that identity. Now that I am in my thirties, I have realized that being good is good, but more important is the motivation behind being good. I want to be good because I love human beings and desire their happiness (or at least some respite from their struggles in life), not to be good so that others will notice me. I think that this is one of the most important lessons I've learned this summer. Over the last 5 years, I have gone through some really turbulent times in my life where the core of my identity has been shaken up. I had hoped that this experience would help me to rediscover my core values and priorities and then align my life with them. I admit that I have not done that perfectly, but I am grateful for the progress made, and hope to continue this next week, when I return to the daily grind of life in Abu Dhabi.

No comments:

Post a Comment