In a fascinating study people serving time in jail in the south of England rated themselves on nine positive personality traits.

The prisoners were asked to compare themselves to average members of the non-incarcerated community on the nine traits of being moral, kind, trustworthy, honest, dependable, compassionate, generous, self-controlled, and law-abiding.

The result? The prisoners rated themselves as superior to members of the community on eight out of the nine traits.

The only exception being the last trait of law-abiding,

It’s possible to draw a few different conclusions from these results.

You might conclude that people lie on self-assessments.

You might conclude that people don’t really know themselves.

You might conclude that people don’t think very highly of other people.

You might conclude that in moments of anger, rage, hatred or jealously we are not really “ourselves”.

You might conclude that good people sometimes do bad things.

The truth is likely to be some shade of grey in-between all of these explanations.

What is clearer is this – across the spectrum of business, government, philanthropy, sports, and religion, too often do we see good people doing bad things. And often these people hold “leadership” roles.

As a result, sadly, many people have lost faith in our basic goodness.

I recently purchased a beautiful little book written by Tara Brach called Trusting The Gold.

Here is a little nugget from Tara:

The gold of our true nature can never be tarnished.

No matter how it might get covered over or disguised by feelings of anger, deficiency or fear, our awareness remains radiant and pure.

In the moments of remembering and trusting this basic goodness of our Being, the grip of “something’s wrong” dissolves and we open to happiness, peace and freedom.


This week I invite you to ponder this burning question:

If you were to accept the basic goodness of all humans as irrefutable, what new possibilities might emerge?


Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

Nelson Mandela