I just read a parable on being good in a Buddhist text (given to me by my wonderful fiancée, called The Teaching of Buddha) that I thought too good not to share:
Once there was a rich widow who had a reputation for kindness, modesty and courtesy. She had a housemaid who was wise and diligent.
One day, the maid thought: “My mistress has a very good reputation; I wonder whether she is good by nature, or is good because of her surroundings. I will try her and find out.”
The following morning the maid did not appear before her mistress until nearly noon. The mistress was vexed and scolded her impatiently. The maid replied:
“If I am lazy for only a day or two, you ought not to become impatient.” Then the mistress became angry.
The next day, the maid got up late again. This made the mistress very angry and she struck the maid with a stick. This incident became widely known and the rich widow lost her good reputation.
Many people are like this woman. While their surroundings are satisfactory they are kind, modest and quiet, but it is questionable if they will behave likewise when the conditions change and become unsatisfactory.
It is only when a person maintains a pure and peaceful mind and continues to act with goodness when unpleasant words enter his ears, when others show ill-will toward him or when he lacks sufficient food, clothes, and shelter, that we may call him good.
This story reminded me of the many times the fiancée herself has been at the end of a snide remark or been snapped at due to me (1) not having enough sleep; (2) not having enough to eat; or (3) both. So sorry! I really do wish I could carry my friendly and gentle disposition (as my primary school teacher would say) with me all the time, even through trying and stressful times.