Why Is It So Hard to Become a Better Person?
Thirteen reasons on Rosh Hashanah.


Dennis Prager

11. Few people were raised to be good people.

Parents raise children to be good students, to be good athletes, to have high self-esteem, and to achieve myriad other goals. But few parents put character first. For decades, I have asked parents whether they would be angrier at their teenager for smoking cigarettes or for cheating on tests. You can guess the overwhelming response.


12. In our formative years, the least impressive are rewarded.

In our high school years, which kids seem to be the most rewarded? The ones with the best character? The kindest? Of course not.

During some of our most formative years, we see the best looking, the best athletes, and the coolest kids get the rewards. We see unimpressive guys getting the prettiest girls, and the prettiest girls getting the most attention — irrespective of their character. And the kids in cliques seem to have the most fun.

Little do we know that these traits won’t be rewarded forever. But it leaves a lasting impression. 

13. Psychological blocks.

As if the first dozen obstacles were not enough, there is an additional one that seems insurmountable for many individuals — psychological issues.

But the operative word here is “seems.” Even those with psychological problems (and who doesn’t have at least one or two?) can and must try to be better people. And the way to begin doing so is purely behavioral: Act better toward others even before you solve your psychological problems. Otherwise you will never be a better person, since those problems may never disappear. And here’s the good news — the better you act, the better your chances of also improving yourself psychologically. The sad irony is that while goodness is the thing that everyone most wants from everyone else, few people want it most for themselves.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, Readers interested in obtaining the recording of the sermon on this subject should call 800-225-8584.