Which attributes define a "good person"?

The Bible says that nobody is good, since everybody sinned. However, lots of people (both Christian and non-Christian) use the phrase, “good person” and “bad person” to label and define certain people based on their actions and attitudes. While everybody is technically a sinner, the term “good person” still seems like a valid term to use, in my opinion.

In your opinion, which attributes make somebody a good person? It’s hard for me to define what makes somebody a good person.

I don’t actually believe that the phrases “good person” and “bad person” are all that helpful or accurate (for the reasons you state- namely that everyone does both good and evil things), although I do use “good person” as shorthand sometimes. I do know that the Bible talks about “righteous” men, so there probably is some validity to the term.

When I say “good person”, I simply mean someone for whom goodness is a priority. They’re going to work at becoming a better and better person, and when they fall, they’re willing to pick themselves up and keep trying. It’s not defined by any particular actions on their part, just that being good and following God is extremely important to them.

Sky, wan’t Mary good?

Of course she was a good person. But which attributes of Mary made her a good person?

She never sinned.

God Bless

I would agree, especially with your first sentence but the God part I am not so sure. Take my mother for example, she is a “good person” but has no faith. Goodness is a priority for her, but God is not even on her radar.

Which is why being “good” is not good enough. Besides it is an ambiguous term at best. A good person might be outwardly good, and never murdered anyone but could be inwardly or secretly “bad”

Sky River said:

Of course she was a good person. But which attributes of Mary made her a good person?

So are you misquoting the Bible out of context?

I don’t think this helps answer the question, since Mary isn’t the only good person ever. People can sin and still be described as “good people”. Several sinners in the Bible are described as “righteous”.

You make a good point here, as goodness by itself isn’t enough for salvation, so I guess it is different than intentionally following God. But I don’t think the concept of “good” is ambigous. When applied to people, it’s ambigous at best. But when applied to actions, good vs. evil should be clear (even if it isn’t clear to individual humans all the time).

So yeah, there can be a comparatively good person who is not saved. And while their imperfect goodness cannot save them, I think that’s still, by definition, better than being a comparatively evil unsaved person.

Without Christ at the center, though, there’s a large risk of promoting evils in the name of good. And I think there are a lot of people who promote both good and evil things- in fact, I’d say nearly everyone is in that camp. Which, again, is one reason why I don’t like to describe individuals as “good” or “evil”.

A good person doesn’t specifically have to believe in God. They obey the natural laws to the best of their ability. Even if they don’t realize what they are doing, in obeying those natural laws they are honoring God.

The terms “good” and “bad” can be misleading because they are often based on our own perception of that person. Jesus was good to the people that believed in Him, but to most of the Jews he was a blasphemer and therefor “bad”.

I don’t think there is any set way of defining who a good person is bacause we can’t know their hearts and minds. However we can observe how they act and treat other people and truly heroic saintly people are recognized by most of the world as being a “living saint”, such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta during her lifetime.

I use two basic criteria:

  1. Does the person avoid doing things that will hurt others while seeking to do things that will help them?

  2. Does the person make an effort to be aware of what will be helpful or hurtful towards others?

I do often hear people being described as “a good person”. Seldom do I hear people being described as “a bad person” since it’s just not politically correct to “judge”.:stuck_out_tongue:
People who describe themselves as “a good person” are making a rationalization most of the time, trying to excuse their bad or unacceptable behavior in one specific area. for example, they may have an adulterous affair but they never litter, they help old ladies across the street and care about the environment, love puppies, etc.

In one sense we are all “good people” at least that is how God made us. Our own free will allows us to make bad choices and otherwise become “bad people”. My definition of a good person is one whose primary goal is to get to heaven and take as many people with them as possible. Love God with all your heart mind and soul (keep His commandments) and love your neighbor as yourself.(follow Jesus’ example).

We need at least a couple workable definitions of ‘goodness’ and ‘personhood’ first in order to get anywhere, so I’ll throw some out there.

The good is:
*]being-as-willed, or being-as-potentially-willed;
*]that which is desirable;
*]that which fulfills the nature and/or purpose of a thing.[/LIST]
A person is:
*]an individual substance of a rational nature;
*]a rationally-relational, communicative substance;
*]a spiritual being, i.e., a substance equipped with both an immaterial intellect and a free will.[/LIST]
Those definitions for the good are pretty standard, mostly in line with Aristotle and Aquinas. Personhood is tougher. The first on the list is from Boethius, and the other two are mine.

I would think that being a good person entails fulfilling the proper, specific nature of personhood, of one’s existence qua person. This would likely be delineated according to whatever is essentially unique to personhood per se. Basically, being a good person means being good at being a person, at doing those things which fulfill the nature and purpose of personhood.

The trouble there is obviously in sorting out what constitutes harm/help, and why/why not, without making all sorts of unjustified ethical and metaphysical presuppositions or simply reducing it to a crude matter of perceived physical and psychological pleasure/pain.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.