Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love Lesson 3/21/09

Relationships do not preclude issues of morality.

Jhumpa Lahini
So, we meet again.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself." This ethic is found in every major religion. In the Judeo/Christian tradition it dates all the way back to the Biblical book of Leviticus (19:18). In my boyhood I was taught by example to be prejudicial, judgmental and critical of other people. The habit of automatic criticism was found even within my own family. It took me many years to finally work my way out of that habit. I'm still working at it.

At first, partly out of self defense and partly out of self righteousness I drew circles around myself which excluded almost everyone. I didn't like or trust anyone. The circle became so small that I didn't even like myself much. That caused me to do things that I would eventually regret. As the years went by and the regrets piled up, I soon realized I had to learn to forgive myself. I had been practicing the dangerous technique of self-justification which isn't as powerful or long lasting as the realization of wrong doing and the resultant regrets. Once I stopped that I began to find a way of forgiving myself, and that way lead me to understand how important it was to forgive others. How could I come to any degree of peace with my own errors, miscalculations and wrong thinking if I wasn't able to see the same causes in other people's actions? So I began to embrace the possibilities of regrets and realizations in other people. The angry tide was going out.

But when the tide came back in I also realized that maybe, in many cases, I didn't have to forgive others. There was something beyond tolerance and forgiveness. Why would I have to forgive someone who was being true to a personal ethic he believed in, even if it seemed to be harmful to other people? Why couldn't I give that person the right to straighten out his own thinking? Just as I expected space for myself to grow, other people deserved the benefit of my believing that they could change and redeem themselves. And what better way to begin to assist in the lightening of the mental horizon than by example. After all, that was the way I first learned to hate. Surely it can be used to teach love. Besides, just because a guy thinks differently about certain things than I do doesn't make him wrong.

The courts are busy trying to decide who is guilty and who is not guilty. But they spend no effort on determining WHAT is guilty. No court has any jurisdiction over the way we think, We are very clever at hurling carping criticisms and sarcastic descriptions at people we don't like. But even a casual negative thought is a chip in the wrong side of the scale. People have a right to their errors, their regrets and their efforts to improve. Life is a learning process.

Are there people who are so evil they are totally unredeemable? Quite possibly. You may disagree with me, and you may be right, but I choose to believe that anyone can come out of the darkeness of hate and cruelty no matter how far they have sunk into evil. I believe the anti-ethical, wrong thinker and doer is reformable. I believe the most heinous villain walking the earth today has in him at least a seed of righteousness and that reason, conscience and compassion are stronger than anyone's genetic structure. If I did not believe that I would have no reason to write this journal.

Those who are closest to us are particularly the ones who need to be encircled in our thoughts and cares, No excuses for wrong doing will be of any help to anyone. But drawing attention to the results or possible results of an action based on wrong thinking can be of great benefit to the ones we love if it is not accompanied by the damaging impulse to ridicule and humiliate. In fact, I think it is essential to friendship and it should never destroy that friendship if given and received with love and respect. I learned that from other people.

Over the years I have been very thankful to those friends who were willing to risk my wrath in order to point out some dark wrinkle in my thinking. It's not so much a question of right and wrong, good or evil. Those are concepts very difficult to define and usually depend on circumstances. It's a question of whether there will be harm or benefit to others or to oneself.. It's right, tough or gentle, to love thy neighbor.

Think Spring. Please!
By the way, I'd like to announce that today begins my second year of being a journalist. On March 20, 2008, I received my first comment from an AOL blogger, Robin, and I was so surprised and curious I answered "Who are you?"


Anonymous said...

Great piece DB. I love my neighbors but I believe they don't reciprocate. It does not matter though. Well, see you on the other side. CIAO for now.

Gerry said...

I do think everyone struggles with some aspect of their own wrong but persistent thinking for many years sometimes. I know the idea of fame has always bugged me, fame for writing a novel, producing a play that went somewhere, etc. and when this did not happen for me I had to wonder if my life still had worth. If only a few wrote what I created did that mean I was less valuable as an artist than those who became known to millions. This was not the way it was supposed to be. If you were good, like cream you would rise to the top. I had to learn the lesson over and over again that most people do not rise to the top, but what they do is still important. How it is important I still ponder. Perhaps you might in some future entry examine this reality. I had a cousin for example who attained great wealth by the time he was 30 and he was fond of saying that anyone who had not made a million at his age was a loser. Disability is another factor hard for the successful to recognize. He did not recognize disability. He saw it as 'weakness.'

Beth said...

Very thoughtful post, D. Beautifully said.

Happy Blogiversary!

Hugs, Beth

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Being human means that we all have the capacity for good, and bad. How we choose defines us. There are people from horrendous backgrounds that shine like beacons of goodness, and those who have had every advantage, but yet seek more and are nasty at every turn. It is within us to choose our path.

As for friends, if they are not willing to give you a virtual slap upside the head occassionally, then are they really a friend?

Joyce said...

I don't think anyone is non-redeemable DB. There is inherent good in every human being. Sometimes it never surfaces and how sad that is. But, there are miraculous changes in the most evil among us at times. So, I must believe...and forgive (for my own sake). Nice entry.
Hugs, Joyce

Big Mark 243 said...

You made some good point, DB. But I do think you need to find a way to forgive someone, when their way of thinking would injure or damage you, even when they are thinking they are in the right, according to how they think. Maybe they aren't aware of the damage they are causing and need to know what they are doing is harmful to others.

Self justification = smug, and being smug means you feel unimpeachable. That is a tower from which there are no doors leading from or to. When you don't feel that you have to explain yourself, and you act without regard for others, then you aren't any better of than those you look upon with scorn and distaste.