Sunday 13 January 2013

"I would rather be whole than good"

Carl Jung  reportedly said  - "I would rather be whole than good".  I perhaps understand this profoundly meaningful quote now.  Till a few years ago, I wanted to be perceived as 'good' and focus on that.    During my childhood, every time I earned the labels like obedient, disciplinedcaringintelligent etc, I perceived myself as good.  It became habit to earn those labels.  As I grew older my addiction with being perceived good continued.  It was important for me to be seen as a good son, good student, good employee, good boss, good husband, good father, good friend et al.  That defined my persona, ego, and self-image.  It was much later I began to understand the difference between 'growing older' and 'growing up'. Hopefully,  now I comprehend the true difference between 'whole' and 'perceived good'.

I fail to be whole when

  • I am actually angry and act to be perceived as calm
  • I feel the right thing to do is to reject and I end up accepting
  • I wish to reprimand but choose to praise
  • I must disagree but for the sake of diplomacy agree
  • love but pretend to be indifferent
  • ... 

Often our urge to appear 'good' is driven by our roles such as those of a parent, teacher, boss, colleague, sibling, friend, spouse, lover etc.  That's precisely where the contradiction lies -- the moment one embraces 'goodness' over 'wholeness' the very effectiveness of the relationship gets compromised and consequently the joy in that role diminishes.  In Sanskrit the matching word for wholeness is pūrṇa; how can one be an effective parent or a teacher or a lover without being pūrṇa?  The projected goodness may at best  provide  transient happiness but can never be a substitute for meaningful relationship or a fulfilling satisfaction of doing justice to the role (refer  


Wholeness implies health. The English word “health” originally meant a state of "wholeness".  No wonder that the root cause of scores of bodily illnesses borne by people, is lack of wholeness.   Conversely, many a people become Healthy by embracing the process of attaining wholeness.   How does one attain wholeness? Here's my take on this process -- it is by 

  • Reclaiming the child in you -- the child who is pure, who's content with her uniqueness, who doesn't  need a facade or filter to be, who embraces inquiry in place of judgement or prejudice
  • Cultivating authenticity -- claiming to be the one who I am, truly and always
  • Living congruently -- when thoughts, feelings & actions are in alignment and in harmony with one's inner core
  • Listening to your inner-self

    Wholeness may be a distant destination for most of us but it is a journey worth pursuing; and that requires courage for, as Jung said, "The attainment of wholeness requires one to stake one's whole being. Nothing less will do; there are no easier conditions, no substitutes, no compromises."

    What do you say? Are you ready to join me in shedding the facade of goodness? Are you ready to stake your whole being to become "whole"? 


    1. Very aptly put Harish, if one focuses on being whole rather than good, the person is forced to discover, invent and evolve "how" to be authentic, yet remain respectful of the relationship, respectful for the person. This "how" will enable the prson to refine his/ her approach to every subject, communication, transaction, etc. and that brings out the best in the person. The possible problem is while being whole the person might develop an attitude of "I dont care as long as I am whole" and that forces me to think that there is an art and science of being whole which is very different from being good.

    2. Harish,
      great to see you blogging! the subject clearly is very close to your personal journey at this point of time and hence comes through with clarity and conviction, laced with crisp articulation- is "whole"!As usual slightly variant view point added ! There is not much difference between "BEING good and/or whole" but a whole lot different between striving "to look " good ! good cannot but be whole!
      wrmest rgds

    3. Interesting, Harish, thanks for blogging. Keep it going. Your blog is very inspiring. The word 'good' conjures , for me, the good work by Howard Gardener & Cziksentmihayi. Also , Jim Collins work on 'good' to great! etc. If it weren't for the wholesomeness of 'good' ..What would the world be, organisations be, life be, we people be, relationships be..

      Whole me is elusive ! Every moment we are completing ourselves. becoming.. transforming. To me 'whole' is a destination ..a journey of 'becoming'. My debate with you Harish is, can I ever be whole, completely ? I am whole now.. gone .. next.. whole next.. gone thereafter.. so it is ephemeral.. it is momentary.. it is becoming.. what remains is the ever so present good.. which comes out of wholesomeness.. in an attempt to being/becoming whole!

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    5. Thank you Prashant, Satish, Sunita, Neha for enriching this blog with your comments. Also, thanking others who emailed their views. What is evident is that people who have evolved can integrate with ease the ‘wholeness’ and ‘goodness’. Wishing all of us the best to further evolve along this continuum and always feel 'good' in being 'whole'

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    7. As one who often says what most people ‘filter’ I’d like to share the loneliness that this stance brings as you grow older. I still have my filters, but they are not to please others rather to consider their feelings and sensitivities. Despite this I can see the wide berth most give me.