Santa has a “naughty or nice” list. So the mythology goes. And, we all fall on it somewhere, right? What does this list and Santa’s classification of naughty and nice say about us and our ethical standards? And is a third category needed?
We all have a sense of standards. Because of “standards” we trust the construction of the homes we live in and the elevators we get on. Because of standards, we recognize good singing from bad singing. And because of standards, we know when people are naughty… or nice.
Naughty vs. Nice
It seems like “naughty” is a pretty extreme standard. Naughty people are people who have a certain disposition. Naughty people are something of a menace. They are actively destructive. They don’t just have the occasional slip up. Naughty people are a moral wrecking ball in the universe. They are a malicious force, and willfully so.
But what is “nice?” I think it’s where most of us view ourselves. We find ourselves to be decent people. We don’t deliberately try to screw people over. We get along with others. And while we sometimes mess up, we don’t consider ourselves “naughty.“
The naughty standard is pretty extreme. But “nice” is kinda… meh. You haven’t killed anyone and you pay your taxes. Congratulations on achieving a mediocre level of ethical standing in the world. Someone should give you a gift for not being a screw up! Aren’t you just… nice.
I’m not sure about you, but I find this naughty or nice list thing kinda depressing. It says so much about our view of morality and the slack standards we view ourselves through.
More Than Just “Nice”
We have the categories of naughty and nice. But what about the category of “good,” or better yet, if I might invoke a Biblical word… “righteous?”
Well, such a category might make us a wee bit nervous. And while we might feel comfortable saying we are basically “good people,” I gotta wonder about that. Because if I asked you what a good person is, you would probably give me a description that sounds much more like “nice.” That is, you aren’t a tyrant who hasn’t killed anyone today.
But good? Righteous even? Are you such a person?
A “Good” Person
When I think of a good or righteous person, I don’t just think about someone who has more going for them than, “I haven’t killed somebody today,” sorta standards.
I mean someone who is making a moral dent in the universe. Someone who doesn’t just get along nicely with others, but someone who actively walks in the ways of sacrificial love.
Jesus said the greatest two commandments are to love God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Such behavior is more than somebody being merely “nice.” A good person is person who is making a moral dent in the universe. Such isn’t just the passive absence of being naughty, but the decision to be an active force for good.
Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. How about them apples?
What would your Christmas look like if Santa was judging you on more than just naughty or nice? What if Santa were to judge you for whether or not you were actually “good?”