Common Decency

 In Balancing, Challenging The Status Quo, Children, Facing Reality, Repairing the World, Respect, The Ways of God
There are so many written and unwritten laws that I find it shocking we human beings don’t know how to behave. Every day I see the most outrageous, lawless behavior and I ask, how could they not know the rules of common decency?

Most of us acknowledge—regardless of our origin or ways we are raised—certain rules governing how we conduct our lives. Even when we defy them, we are aware we are doing something wrong or unacceptable by most of society. There is an in-born moral code, even though we many choose to ignore it, thus ignoring tour own conscience to an awful end.

It is not that we are ignorant of the law. For some reason we have decided that it’s okay to override rules of every kind. We obey only when it suits us. What causes that?

It’s a victim-assertiveness, my rights are being violated, so the rules are all off. Someone in authority over us—perhaps even a caretaker or parent—abuses that power because they can, because there are no checks and balances on such tyranny, especially over little kids behind closed doors and even in the local grocery store, for that matter.

But there is a higher law, a higher order. There are “come uppins” For our missteps and abuses. Even though many have convinced themselves there is not a God, no Creator, no Overseer of this huddled mass of humanity—even for those who sense in their inner being we could not be here by chance—inside each of us is an inborn kernel of what decency is and that there are consequences to our breaking the rules, the law, whether written or not.

No one doubts the consequences of defying observable, physical laws. Take gravity. Even though we many have never been taught what will happen when we step off a cliff, that step could very well be our last. Knowing this law, we guard over our young ones and teach them where and how to step. We train them until they understand the concept. We can’t always be there, so we teach them the principle—when you remove your feet from something firm, you will eventually come down. What goes up must come down.

It’s almost ridiculous to mention that law. It’s like the simple one of not touching something hot. So why can’t we see that the results of defying less obvious standards are just as deadly? Natural science tells us that for every action, there is a comparable reaction. Everything that comes our way calls for some kind of response. As human beings, we are not restricted to mere instinct as animals are. We can choose how, when, where we respond.

When someone hurts or abuses us, we can choose our inevitable response or reaction. We can choose to forgive them and bypass all the resultant actions of reacting. Not the least of what we avoid is destruction desecrating our inner man. Who we are and who we come to be is not in the hands of others, but in our own. This is not a world of action-reaction, perpetrator-victim, oppressor-oppressed unless we allow it to be.

We don’t have to join up with any number of crusades to stop these abuses. We each just need to determine in our own hearts that we will listen to the higher law in every situation. We will not hit when we are hit. We will not refrain from hitting, but hold our hurt inside. We will truly treat each situation that presents itself to us as a chance to build our own inner man.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. There are models out there that show us the value of doing such, but the purest of all is to realize that for anyone to hurt another, they must be reacting to an injury to their inner man. We see a wounded animal and note that it will not be approachable to even receive help. Indeed, it usually lashes out.

We must look at human beings with the same understanding. Why would anyone deliberately slander another or spread falsehoods? Why would someone be nice to your face and stab you in the back? Why would someone hold you back from succeeding or being happy? Why would anyone laugh at your misfortune?

The answer is partly exposed in the adage, “Misery loves company.” We don’t want to be alone in our suffering. There’s another one, “If I can’t have it, no one else will.” When all our hopes and dreams are dashed, why do we actively spoil others?

From the old spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” some would even endeavor to help you see the trouble they’ve seen. We see the vile voice and ugly face of racism burst forth from those who were the most recently oppressed. And the cycle continues, not winding down to eventual peace, but ever escalating so that someone is always down so that others might be up. Even prejudice has a pure response.

Responding to man’s inhumanity to man is never easy, but it is simple. The law, the rule of thumb, the answer is always the same. We choose to not be like those “who revile or persecute us, who take up arms against us or perversely use us.” And we do this from a clean, pure place deep within us. Not with meanness or arrogance, not with martyrdom, but with a clear understanding of how we were all made in the first place.

Can we truly forgive them for they “know” not what they do? For all those laws that were created in every one of us cries out when we violate them. If we “knew” in that sense, the larger picture of life, and how we are to treat each other, we could not treat anyone as we tend to do.

Why can’t we respond purely? We are out of touch with, our sensibilities are dull or, our taste buds are too jaded against a better way to live. We are so desensitized from responding as we ought, that we think to truly forgive is to let others off the hook for their bad behavior toward us and others.

Somewhere it has to start in us—each one of us. It’s not just another revolution, another cause to join. It’s about our own personal well being. We see, hear and feel the physical results, damage we do to ourselves, when we allow ourselves to react, rather than respond to slights from others. Even those who never outwardly lash out, lash inward.

How many are bitter among us? We have seen the connections between holding onto bitterness and the resultant illnesses in our bodies. Is it so far fetched that our physical well being could be threatened by our spiritual, emotional state? Even the “unseen” stress so many of us experience, medical science tells us has far-reaching physical consequences. Our blood vessels constrict; we damage our organs and more.

Sadly, those who do start to see the direct link between thought life and our physical state are usually already in middle age or older. What can we do now? All we can do is make change in ourselves. The “kids” are running around acting, reacting. We can impact them by modeling, not by preaching—which is what this diatribe is unfortunately doing. We can break our own destructive cycles and begin to truly view our fellow man as we would hope they would view us. If I err and hurt you, it is just that – error.

It all seems crazy to seemingly let people off the hook for the damage they have done to others. Our inner sense of justice says that they must pay. There’s nothing we can do outside ourselves that does not affect our insides. We are not segmented, compartmentalized beings. We are wholes. When the tiniest part of us is hurt—we stub a toe or get a sticker in our foot—our whole being gets involved. Whether we express it outwardly or not, we are affected.

Some have said revenge is sweet, but it really is quite bitter. Whatever hurt we cause others will certainly come back to reside in us. I, for one, hope I don’t get what I deserve in this life, because we all fall short of being who we were meant to be. If I pass judgment on another, I am passing it on myself. There is nothing we can do to another person that is close to what each of us does to ourselves.

– Shari



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