Trying to be good (and failing)

At the risk of overloading people with a low tolerance for glurge, (for those who don't know, glurge refers to those sickeningly saccharine anecdotes and media tidbits with puppies, kittens, Jesus, inspirationally disadvantaged little kids and all sorts of other equally disgusting things), I'd like to link to the Paradoxical Commandments. As downright sentimental as it is, it's still just a tiny bit heartwarming...yes, I'm a big softie inside.

The thing about the Paradoxical Commandments is that they're not actually that much of a paradox - they only look that way because most of the steps have been left out.
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. [sic]
Love them anyway.
Yes, they're all of those things, but they're also rational, reasonable and altruistic. They help you through troubled times and they'll stand behind you when you really need them.

John Donne once wrote that "no man is an island" - and although the quote's now tired and clichéd, the sentiment behind it is true as ever. No-one can cut themselves off from the world completely, and no-one should - because frankly, it sucks not being loved and not loving anyone yourself. I'm not talking about romantic love alone here - I mean love of family, friends and even (if you're lucky enough to find it, let alone recognise it) unconditional love.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
Let's face it, the world's a sack of crap. We've got little to lose by trying to change it for the better.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
And why the hell shouldn't you? The successful people are the ones who change things, for better or worse, and success is a wonderful feeling. I know I sound like a walking, talking cliché here, but it's annoyingly true.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
That's not strictly true. Yes, people are ungrateful. Yes, people have short and selective memories - but if you do something good for one person, even a small thing, they'll remember it - particularly if it gave them the strength to go on living, which it sometimes does. Make any arguments you like for why the human species needs to be killed off, but if you're going to go in that direction I'd argue that slow death from despair isn't the best way to go about it - it's inefficient, wastes resources and prolongs suffering, for a start.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
People hate them both: they show up all one's faults and weaknesses, which no-one wants to admit to themselves. No, not even the people fishing for compliments. The thing about honesty and frankness is that they can stop you from going insane - and also, people may not like you much for being honest, but they'll respect you. Hell, maybe they'll even look up to you for it.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
Have big dreams, because they help to shake this world up - it's too stagnant anyway, especially in the West. Then follow them, because ideas are pretty useless if no-one does anything with them. And of course people will try to shoot said dreams down, maybe out of spite or maybe because very few people dare to have big dreams, but you have to fight for them. Without dreams and goals, even unrealistically huge ones, is there really much out there to live for? No, there isn't, except for a "life" of transient happiness - which isn't much of a life at all.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. [sic]
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
People like underdogs because the great majority of us are underdogs, or have been, and because we can relate to them. Still, we follow the "top dogs" for a massive, massive list of reasons: fear, admiration, a misplaced sense of realism...the list goes on.

As to why one should fight for underdogs if there are so many reasons just to stick one's head in the sand instead? Venturing a guess, I'd say that anyone actually going out there and fighting has courage - especially the people who sweat blood for little reward and much derision: the underdogs, in other words. Moreover, fight for them and one's fighting for the underdog in oneself. Finally, it can't hurt to level the playing field a little. Life's so unfair it's hilarious, and most of the underdogs don't deserve their position. Making the world a little fairer and actually rewarding people for their efforts might help people, and it certainly wouldn't hurt anyone who didn't already deserve it.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
If you don't build something, you'll have nothing to live for or live in. If you don't build something, the world won't have any great structures - it'll just be an empty wasteland. And yes, all our efforts come to dust in the end, some more quickly than others - you can't avoid that. But not even bothering to build things, just because you're scared they'll fall down, is frankly cowardly.

Without things built by other people, be they cities, civilisations or frameworks for thinking, life as we know it wouldn't exist. You can argue that's a good thing, but without any built things like that we'd have very little - none of the higher thoughts or discoveries which, to me, are why life is worth living. Without people to build, we'd have none of these higher things - no civilisations, no overarching works of art, no philosophies, nothing at all - only eating, sleeping and sex, with no possibility of ever even understanding something different.

Go out and build things. The tougher structures will survive, while the flimsier ones topple down. Some will be torn down in a storm or flood, while others will be put back together piece by piece. Either way, it'll all add to humanity and make us the richer for it, if not necessarily better or worse.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Even if they're attacking you, they still need that help. They may die without it. If they mean something to you, or even if you just don't like seeing people destroy themselves, then help them. Get the scars and bite marks on you, and as long as they recover, even partially, you've done your job properly.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Like I've said, life is crap. It hates you. It hates me. It hates everyone, but the people who go with the flow suffer less for it - and, as a corollary, the people who actually try to change things, or who stick out from the crowd in some way, suffer more.

Against all that, it's worth changing things. Go ahead. Give it your best and get kicked in the teeth. Life is harder if you do it that way, but it's more rewarding. You learn things you never would have otherwise and you gain the respect of people who wouldn't even give you the time of day if you'd stuck your head in the sand. And who might even change things.

Right. Glurgefest over, trying to be good absolutely sucks. I'm not going to lie. Nobody stands up for you and everyone you know seems to be ranged against you. Nobody seems to understand. You don't get any rewards for succeeding and you often fail.

So why do it? Why try? Because being evil or even just amoral sucks a hell of a lot harder. Sticking to values may be difficult, but getting rid of them is even more difficult - as well as making you feel sick inside. Values, for me at least, also serve as a sort of framework - without them, there's little to hold onto in the world - and they show you have integrity, which is one of the rarest things around right now and also one of the things which will earn you respect in the long run.

Values will get you into trouble. They may well be evil or end up starting massive wars. They're also a reason for higher living - ultimately, it is better to suffer great pain for what you believe in and also experience great joy than to be too cowardly to work anything out for yourself and live only a mediocre life.

Ultimately, greatness is better than mediocrity, although you pay a higher price for it. Ultimately, what's good and what's evil cannot truly be known, and ultimately, sticking to your values is painful - maybe not even worth it, especially in the short run. But ultimately, sticking to your values brings you closer to greatness.