Good Is More Important Than Great

It takes Sherlock Holmes a long time to warm up to Dr. Watson as more than an accessory, but eventually, the two form a deep friendship.

Initially, Holmes barely uses Watson as a sounding board, for there is nothing the latter could tell him that he doesn’t already know. Eventually, however, he realizes Watson has traits to offer that go beyond mere perception and assembling a chain of undeniable logic. Watson is loyal to a fault, never refuses help when it is needed, and will, if need be, go beyond the law to ensure true justice is served.

It is heartwarming to see a cold, calculated Sherlock turn into a human being over the course of the BBC show, and it is of course at the very end of it that it culminates in Holmes throwing many of his principles overboard to be there for and do right by his friend.

In one of the show’s final moments, a new police officer spots Holmes standing across the street. He asks inspector Lestrade, who has witnessed Holmes’ transformation from beginning to end, whether he really is looking at the famous detective.

Lestrade asks the officer if he’s a fan, and the officer says, “Well, he’s a great man, sir!” Lestrade looks at Holmes and says, “No, he’s better than that. He’s a good one.”

Many an empire has fallen because good people lost themselves in trying to be great. Greatness inspires delusion, greed, fear, arrogance, neglect, and a whole host of other problems.

In Holmes’ case (pun intended), it is his incessant need to show off his skills, his restless mind requiring drugs if there is no case to solve, and his complete lack of empathy in handling the human consequences of what may be a perfectly logical crime.

For Holmes, letting go of these behaviors to help, and in some cases save, his friend is not an easy feat – and that is the point: A good person will make sacrifices for others where a “great” person won’t, because the “great” person is so obsessed with the grandeur of their vision that the only acceptable sacrifices are the ones furthering the cause, not human life in general.

When you have a choice – and we almost always have a choice – choose good instead of great. Great might last a century or two, or even a millennium, but the spirit and impact of goodness, like a person choosing to not abandon their friends, will ripple through the ages forever.