If the good die young, what does that say about you and me?

Happy volunteer grandmother smiling at camera on a sunny day

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What I mean by the question is this: If all the good die young, how come you and I have been around long enough to be interested in retirement? We aren’t young. Does that make us not good—as in bad or evil?

The ‘good die young’ saying has been around for a long time. There’s an ancient Greek version of this: ‘Whom the gods love dies young.’ The English poet William Wordsworth backed that up. He wrote: ‘The good die first, And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust, Burn to the socket’.

Howard S Friedman and Leslie R Martin’s in The Longevity Project, refer to author Daniel Defoe. Defoe (who wrote Robinson Crusoe) wrote, ‘The best of men cannot suspend their fate: the good die early, and the bad die late’.

But from their Longevity Project research, they say, ‘We did not find this to be true at all, instead finding that many of the most agreeable, thoughtful, and helpful . . . were among the longest living’. This ongoing research began in 1921.

The good live long

In looking at how relationships benefit people, they found that it wasn’t the feel-good aspects of having friends that led to a longer life. ‘Rather, it was the more hands-on pieces that mattered most—being in contact with family members, doing things with friends, and helping others.’

And there was a whole range of other things that were characteristic of long life. They include: ‘Being conscientious, being in a good marriage, having healthy habits, and working hard in a successful career.’

Hmmm, that sounds like a good way to live.

Friedman and Martin’s conclusion? There’s no evidence that the good die young. And while there are always exceptions, the reality is different. With adjustments to Defoe, they say: ‘It’s the good ones who can actually shape their fate; the bad die early, and the good do great.’

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

Category: Attitude, Emotional Health, Lifestyle, Physical Health

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