What does “goodness” mean to you? A lot of us use the word “good” as a throwaway word. When I’m asked how I’m feeling, I might say “I’m good” without really meaning it or giving it much thought. Or when I’m asked “how was it” about an event or activity, I might answer without thinking and simply reply “it was good”. But what do I really mean by that?
Often our interpretation of goodness is based on what makes us feel good. The world screams that if it feels good, we should just do it. In doing what simply makes us feel good, though, we are forgetting that goodness is truly a gift from God, and that we will see the product of this gift in our actions. Doing good is a result of a life characterized by actions that are motivated by the goodness and righteousness that God mercifully blesses us with. We should use goodness to be a blessing to those around us and to be smitten with goodness.
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. Church tradition lists twelve: charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness (benignity), goodness, generosity (longanimity), gentleness (mildness), faithfulness (faith), modesty, self-control (continency), chastity.Galatians 5:22-23 Vulgate
Today we explore the sixth fruit of the Spirit, goodness. What exactly is goodness? As I noted above, the word good is used so frequently in our everyday lives that it almost loses its meaning. For example, how many times a day do we say, good morning and good luck and good job? But the Bible tells us that the word good actually means holy, pure and righteousness. Literally goodness is godliness.
Goodness comes from living a life of virtue, of good habits. At the end of the day, the foundational or cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance are the only things within our human power to control. Like a muscle, these powers get stronger when used. Virtue allows us to perfect our thoughts and our actions, have courage, and moderate our desires and passions. Infused by grace, we bear the fruits of the Spirit. We become smitten with goodness. We are drawn to more goodness and drawn away from the attractions of the world.
Over the years, I have been blessed that God has drawn me to His goodness. Smitten with Goodness was born as the result of God’s action and my learning to trust and surrender to His love. I firmly believe that this is God’s work in me as I surrender my agenda and allow Him to guide me where He wants me to be. I’m also understanding that this is the loop of grace; I surrender to God’s will, see His presence, and hear His voice, and then take action. All of us can be open to this pattern, where we eventually open our eyes to God’s presence and goodness in everything and everyone. We can begin seeing grace by seeking gratitude in all things.
Goodness can often be seen in our actions, but our heart also must be pure. The goodness of Christ is to be demonstrated in our lives every day. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
As we mature in our faith, aligning our will with God’s, all the characteristics of our spiritual fruits grow. Let’s look at some of the benefits of learning, understanding, and living in the fruit of goodness:
- God calls us to be filled with goodness from the inside out, being holy in what we do and say because our hearts seek goodness. We are not to just do good works, because doing good works without a good heart is empty.
- The goodness described as a fruit of the Spirit is not merely moral behavior, but an excellence of character. This goodness is only possible through God’s grace and mercy.
- We often say, “God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.” Does this mean that our lives are always good? No, of course not. It means that God is practicing the fruit of the spirit of goodness—godliness. God is good, and He wants us to grow in the fruit of goodness so we can live a fulfilling life full of righteous love.
- The term good can be all encompassing. We say God is good but when we break the word down, God’s goodness has so much more to it. He is Love, He is merciful, He is forgiving.
- The feeling of goodness we experience from doing good comes from God because HE IS GOOD! In the same way that we can love because he first loved us, His goodness is a demonstration and example to us.
- Being God’s children means that God knows what is best for us. He wants us to develop and demonstrate his goodness so we can be like him and reach out to those around us through His goodness. As shown in Hebrews 12:2, we should be looking to Jesus: “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. Jesus himself took human form to be the perfect example for us so that we could understand and learn what goodness looks like.
- As we see in James 1:17, we cannot manufacture this quality on our own, but we are simply reflecting a goodness that comes from God. We need God’s help and also must spend time knowing and appreciating His goodness to grow in the fruit of goodness and impact those around us.
Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above.Focus on HIs truth, James 1:17
How do we cultivate the fruit of goodness? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Stop before acting. Many times, we jump into action, without thinking about the consequences. It can be useful to stop and ask questions before we act:
- Is the good that I do based on God’s standards in the bible or society’s standards?
- What is the motive of my goodness? Is it a true goodness of the heart or is it motivated by appearing to be good to others?
- Would God consider what I am about to watch, say, think or do good?
- Prayer. Through prayer we can differentiate between the goodness that comes from God and other forms of so-called goodness around us.
- Trust that God is the source of all good things. We cannot have true spiritual goodness unless we look to God for it. Pray St Augustine’s prayer: Lord … you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
- Renounce evil in our actions. Being good involves the constant renouncing of evil in our day-to-day actions. When we are good, we are constantly seeking the path of righteousness and strive to do God’s will even at the expense of earthly success.
- Grow in virtue. Check out this podcast that gives a great understanding of what it means to be human and the virtues we can exercise to grow in goodness. I was blown away by this powerful conversation!
True goodness is when we walk the path of holiness and mirror the pure goodness of Jesus Christ. When we are present in the moments of our lives, God meets us there. His goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives when we dwell in Him. Goodness fans the flames of a selfless desire to be generous to others. Gods’ goodness draws us to holiness. He works through us so that we may be smitten with goodness, allowing His gift of the Holy Spirit to move freely on the earth through us.
Smitten with the fruit of goodness,