Match Up: Good versus…Great?


Good and great.

These are two words that can be used interchangeably in describing people, events and things. I have often thought that “great” is in many ways better than just being “good”. For example, when  asked about a particularly pleasing experience, one could say that it wasn’t just good. Instead one can describe it as something that was rather great.

Same words, right? Only, the latter seems to carry much more weight — in a higher degree of “goodness” if you may.

But my simple understanding of both of these terms was somewhat changed when I read how Mr. Ollivander described Lord Voldemort in the wand choosing scene in Harry Potter.

Curious indeed how these things happen. The wand chooses the wizard, remember…. I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter…. After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great.

Suddenly, these two words no longer felt like proper synonyms of one another. I mean, can something really be great and not be good at the same time?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Growing up, I thought that in order for one to be successful (whatever that means for each person), one must also be “great”. Excellence has always been the aim, hence being merely “good” would not really suffice. As I meet people with varying levels of successes and accomplishments, the difference between all things good and great seems to widen all the more. This is not to say that most great people are far from being good, or the other way around. I was just struck by how different these words mean when describing an individual.

Greatness, despite its obvious relativity,  is often easier to gauge while goodness, in its truest form, is far more difficult to define. In an effort to make personal changes in attaining both of these description, one cannot help but compare the roads that lead to each of such attribute.

Winston Churchill once said that “great and good are seldom the same man”.

I wonder if this is really true.

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2 thoughts on “Match Up: Good versus…Great?

  1. Interesting post. There’s definitely a distinction… I will probably mull this one over, as I can see how the differing motivations to pursue goodness and greatness, can lead to very different behaviors. I like to think about things like this, so I appreciate this post. Well done!

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