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What is good?

He has shown you, O man, what is good… (Micah 6:8a).

Mankind pursues “the good life,” always trying to figure out, what it’s all about: how to recognize its presence, how to achieve its content, how to understand its power. If we make the required decisions early in life we tend to stumble into the experience. However, we must meet the unknown criteria—in which money plays no role. One cannot buy the good life.

Webster, in his “Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language” includes two definitions under the listing of good life. The first, he defines in a moral and religious context as “a life lived according to the moral and religious laws of one’s culture.” The second, more money oriented, he defines as “a life abounding in material comforts and luxuries.”

Let’s explore my “good life.”

I turned 88 last July, the same number as the keys on a piano. Most people, especially pianists, make this analogy. I don’t. The piano will never see 89 keys. I’m planning on it. I’ve had a most wonderful life, loaded with happiness and joy by my parents, Lloyd and Violet (Hay) Docter, as well as my twin brother, Richard, and, especially, the wisest decision I ever made—to ask Diane Beecher for her hand in marriage. Our love continues to grow with the aid of six wonderful children who gave us 15 grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

But how does one fully describe a good life?

How about pleasure? Living the good life is pleasurable, but too many people look for the good life in foolish places and they can’t find it there. So, it’s not pleasure.

How about happiness? Absolutely!

How about a positive value system? Yes. It’s part of the “good life.” It shapes your being, makes your impulses spontaneously positive.

How about character? Yes, especially when it connects with “otherness.”

How about virtue?  Sure, it’s the good part of “character.”

How about caring? A must. If you don’t care, you’re uninvolved.


But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

   what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

   be compassionate and loyal in your love,

And don’t take yourself too seriously—

   take God seriously.

(Micah 6:8 MSG)

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Bob Docter

Bob Docter is the founding editor of The Salvation Army New Frontier Publications. He received a doctorate degree in psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, where he has taught for more than 50 years. He served as a member and President of the Los Angeles Board of Education in the 1970s, during the integration of schools. An Order of the Founder recipient, Docter is revered in The Salvation Army.