Relationships do not preclude issues of morality.
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?"