Chapter 28 Learning Objectives

Upon reading this chapter, the student should be able to:

  • Recognize that in some cases there can be a difference between being ‘good for’ someone and being ‘good to’ him or her.

Watch this video or scan the QR code to see the contrast between egoism and love.

I have often interchanged the expressions “being good to” someone and “being good for” someone. I think there is a difference that sometimes occurs between them, but I have not intended to refer to that difference and have meant to use them interchangeably. If you help someone develop a talent they may have or if you help them in some other way become a better person, then I think the normal expression in English is that you were good “for” them, and not just good “to” them. But I think that inspiring someone to be a better person, helping them become a better person, and/or bringing out the best in another person is also to be good to them. I do not think being good “to” someone necessarily just means serving (in the sense of waiting on) them, meeting their needs or desires, pampering them, or giving them things they want. It can also mean helping them develop their worthwhile potentials.

In fact, helping bring out the best in someone is, I think, one of the best ways to be good to someone; but it is also something that cannot be done by just any one person for just any other person regardless of how hard they both might work at it. Not everyone can develop the talents of another, even if they want to; it takes more than desire. As I said in the ethics section concerning what things are good in life, I think one of the most important values is the development or maximization of one’s capabilities to create, discover, recognize, and enjoy or appreciate goodness, beauty, and truth of whatever nature or area of interest. So any person or partner who helps another do that is being very good to (and for) them in at least that regard.

However, I think that just following the ethical principles outlined in the preceding chapter, or just acting toward others with civility and etiquette are insufficient to help them maximize their capabilities. It takes the luck of the right two people coming together, people with the right coinciding interests and abilities. It is one thing to be properly parental to a child, or to be polite, civilized, and moderately good “to” someone else. It requires more than that to bring out qualities in them that only a few people might recognize in their undeveloped state, understand themselves, and understand how to develop. For example, Mickey Mantle’s father (I believe) was very instrumental in developing his son’s baseball playing talents. Mr. Mantle was very good for his son. Mozart’s father and the company he kept, along with the musical knowledge and love he had, and the kind of environment he surrounded his children with, was also extremely good for his son’s early musical development. Had those sons been born to each others’ father, however, neither one would likely have developed in the way they did, regardless of how good or loving either father would have been “to” the son. Similarly, two loving partners may be able to be good to each other — fair, civilized, considerate, satisfying, exciting, kind, helpful, beneficial in many ways, etc. — but it takes a special, and perhaps somewhat rare, blend of characteristics between two people for them to bring out the best in each other and in each others’ worthy talents. This is not to say that only musicians can be best for other musicians or that bodybuilders need to marry each other to have the best marriage. People do not need to have similar interests or abilities to be able to bring out the best in each other; and often having similar interests and abilities (such as the pair of golfers I told about earlier) will not help you bring out the best in each other. But to bring out the best in someone else, or to be good in some (other) way “for” someone else, requires having some right set of characteristics that coincide or blend in some special way with the other person’s qualities. Other people’s characteristics, no matter how good, might not be so particularly beneficial to some particular person; and someone who might be wonderful for one person’s development might not be good at all for someone else’s.

Remember also, this particular blend I am speaking about has to do with the ethical or value aspect of relationships, not necessarily the interest or satisfaction aspect. The two do not always coincide. People may have worthy talents or abilities they are not particularly interested in developing or pursuing, and they therefore are happier around people who do not help them develop their abilities; and some people have abilities they wish to cultivate, which, apart from the joy they bring, are abilities that are bad or evil.

Key Takeaways

  • One can be good to a person without being good for him/her; and vice versa, but in many, perhaps most circumstances, being good for someone and being good to them coincide.

Key Terms

  • Being good “to” someone does not necessarily just mean serving (in the sense of waiting on) them, meeting their needs or desires, pampering them, or giving them things they want, but it may also mean helping them develop their worthwhile potential.

Chapter Review Questions

  • Question: What are some of the most important values to consider when trying to help bring out the best in someone?


Chapter 28 Good “For” and Good “To” Copyright © 2017 by jhill5 and Richard Garlikov. All Rights Reserved.

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