When a person says to you without provocation, “I am a good person” that is your cue to politely excuse yourself from the room and run hard in the opposite direction because you are about to get scammed or harangued or lectured.

24 Comments

  1. Hey David!
    Interesting!
    Is the concept of ”good” relative here?
    My Mom used to say this when I was young, ”do something that people say good things about you, then you don’t have to blow your own trumpet to prove that you are a good person!”

  2. In my experience anyone who feels the need to self-advertise their qualities directly upon meeting is of questionable motives and intent. Yes, good people are self-evident, their qualities are revealed throgh repeated, meaningful interactions.Everyone advertises themselves to some extent, however I often find that those who advertise themselves the least are the most rewarding once you spend the time to interact with them and experience their qualities.

  3. I’m sure there are many other examples we should run from, but when someone introduces themselves as a “Proud Black Woman” you better watch out because that phrase is an excuse for loud, inappropriate, obnoxious behavior.
    The real “proud Black women” let their actions define them and they do use a phrase as an excuse for acting out.

  4. Karvain!
    Ouch!
    I, unfortunately, intimately know the “Proud Black Woman” syndrome of which you speak — comedian Kathy Griffin also makes a similar riff in her stand-up comedy routine – so that stereotype is common enough now to be defined in a shared laughter.
    I’m sure there are other self-proclaimed phrases that are marks for running away…
    “Proud American”
    “Responsible Father”
    “Happily Married”
    “Good Jewish Boy”
    “Open Minded”

  5. I was outside the Daley Center in Chicago today and a older gentleman came up to me, introduced himself, and told me right away he was a good person, a retired Marine, and was down on his luck and needed some money to be able to get to work after being out of a job for many years.
    Of course, he didn’t want to ask me for money, but really needed the money or he was going to lose his job.
    The warning bells rang because of his elaborate set-up before asking me for a couple of bucks. Also, why would he need to tell me he was a good person right away? Just as you said, anyone saying they’re a “good person” raises the red flag.
    I was broke and told him so. I only had enough cash to get the car out of the parking garage.
    He excused himself and walked over to the next person who was standing outside and proceeded to tell the same elaborate story.
    I probably would have given him something if I had extra cash and if he had asked directly for a dollar or two. I’ve given money to people at the gas station when their credit card was declined and at the store when they arrive at the cashier and realize they are a little short. But, there’s something about getting the hard-luck and overly elaborate story that always makes me want to hold off. It get that sixth-sense that it’s a set-up or a scam. Pulling out your wallet in front of someone who is trying to convince you they are “good” is an invitation to have it snatched out of your hand.
    Regular people don’t tell you their whole life story after walking up to you on the street. I make it a personal point to not encourage the “street storytellers” who tell you they are “good people” right off the bat.

  6. Hi Chris —
    Oh, I love that story! How eerily perfect for proving even further the point we’re trying to make today. Thanks!
    Anyone on the street who approaches me with a direct intent is always going to ask me for money.
    Those who are truly stuck and out of cash have that 1,000 yard view look in their eyes and they are usually immobile and quiet. Like you, I make an approach to them and ask if they need help. They are usually surprised by the offer and embarrassed by their station.

  7. If my experience has taught me anything it’s that the only people who use the phrase “good jewish boy” is the mothers of the girls who are being set up on dates! 🙂

  8. To respond in a somewhat serious manner, there actually isn’t. 🙂 Being a committed observant Jew does not require great wealth, but it does require commitment. Some of the greatest rabbis of the talmudic era were dirt poor and were thrilled to have bread and salt as a meal.

  9. On a completely unrelated note I thought I’d let you in on another way that Judaism is totally different from most religions of the world. There are a lot of religions that demand that you are perfect, or else you are suffering punishment xyz.
    In judaism, punishment and reward are totally on a sliding scale basis. For example, if my rabbi walks past a red lobster and doesn’t go in, it’s no big deal. However, when I was first becoming more observant, there was an internal struggle going on when I would pass by one. How I used to go in there, and eat without giving it a second thought! But I would resist and not go in. This would be considered a meritorious act.
    However, had I gone in there, it would have been considered less of a bad thing than if my rabbi had done it.
    Basically, we believe that G-d knows exactly what you are capable of, and so long as you do your best, everything should work out all right when you present yourself in front of the heavenly court at the end of your life. 🙂

  10. When I say doing your best, I think I mean something different than how a lot of society sees it.
    I’m talking about using a person’s full capacity for doing something. If a person can do better than what they are doing but they choose not to for whatever reason they’re not really doing their best.
    There’s a story of this rabbi who published a book and when giving a speech at the celebration that was given on the occasion of its publication he told a story. As a child he was irresponsible and didn’t perform well in school. One night he overheard his parents talking about him and saying how they wished there were something they could do to help him be better.
    He realized he wasn’t performing to his potential and completely turned his life around and became the rabbi that he was. He said that he knew that he must have had the capability to write the book because there it was, in his hands. Had he not put forth the effort to write the book he would have been querried about it at the heavenly court. They would have had a copy of the book and said, “But you see, here’s the book that you were perfectly capable of writing.”
    Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘doing your best’ but instead, ‘living up to your potential’ or ‘doing all that you are capable of doing’. 🙂

  11. To be fair, I have actually experienced people saying this out of the blue and neither of your three original conditions applied.
    However, that is because I spent seven years as a dorm parent, living in-dorm at a residential private high school. And, in the several cases to which I refer, each adolescent had just emerged from some sort of horrible experience which caused them to seek out a adult immediately who could confirm that, indeed, they were and are a good person.
    Perhaps adolescents are an exception? Or perhaps all of us need positive reinforcement that badly from even complete stramgers sometimes, and thus a fourth condition applies?
    That said: yes, on the street, it’s probably better to assume you’re about to be accosted and defiled in some way if you stay to hear any more after that.