Monday, May 08, 2006

Setting standards

Back from the weekend visiting the private school, and it’s all good. We met a lot of great people and made some significant decisions. And, I had a lot of inspiring conversations.

It strikes me that everyone’s just trying to do their best with the light they’ve been given. We may not always agree on the implementation of spiritual ideas, but if we trust that each of us is doing our best, we can also trust that the final outcome will be cumulatively progressive.

I’m reminded of this passage, which I’m going to truncate here but you can read in full at the link:

“…[The discoverer of Christian Science] feels, as she always has felt, that all are privileged to work out their own salvation according to their light, and that our motto should be the Master's counsel, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’”

--Science and Health

It’s an interesting conundrum for me—my personal “standards” vs. what I think others should do. I suppose you could look at my life and my choices and think I’m pretty straight-laced when it comes to standards. I don’t drink, I don’t use drugs of any kind, I’ve never taken a pill or had shots (other than Novocain), I practice chastity, I don’t drink caffeine, I don’t gamble—I don’t even participate in raffles. I don’t use our Lord’s name irreverently (although the stray vulgarism does escape me from time to time!).

A lot of “don’ts.” You’d think I must also be a walking tower of judgmentalism, and frankly there was a time in my life when I was insufferable. There was no talking to me, everything was very black and white. But then I spent a few years getting into trouble, sliding from the standards into experimentation. And I’ve had to pay for and learn from those actions.

I came out of all that with a recommitment to the lifestyle I’ve chosen, to avoid anything that I feel leads away from Spirit. All those “don’ts.” But I also found myself fairly free from judging others. Once you’ve made your own mistakes, it’s easier to have some understanding about the paths of others.

I believe now that, while you can try to impose standards on people, they’re eventually going to have to prove the value of those standards for themselves. Forming good habits has its place, but just avoiding things out of habit isn’t enough. Whatever standards you adhere to have to be based on spiritual understanding. And many deep spiritual thinkers whom I respect hold to different standards than I do. I don’t think I can legitimately draw any conclusions as to the depth of their spiritual understanding from a difference in the external standards.

Anyway, that’s the kind of thing this weekend is making me think about. It’s all good. We don’t all have to be the same in order to learn from each other.


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2 Comments:

At 5/08/2006 01:54:00 PM, Anonymous Emily said...

"Whatever standards you adhere to have to be based on spiritual understanding."

I love this. My parents were Christian Scientists when I was small and Baptists when I was a little older. I basically grew up on Baptist don'ts: Don't drink, don't smoke, don't have sex before you're married, don't swear, don't, don't, don't, don't, don't. I spent a good many years ignoring some or all of those don'ts, mainly because nobody could ever explain to me exactly why I shouldn't do certain things. Morals without understanding are pretty worthless ... and pretty hard to uphold.

Compounding the problem was the fact that adults have a bad habit of lying to kids -- or at least stretching the truth -- to scare them into good behavior. The irony of people's dishonesty in the name of morality did not escape me, and my general attitude was, "I'll quit (fill in the blank) when you quit lying and give me one good, honest, sensible reason why I should straighten up."

When I wandered back into Science after a 25-year hiatus, I sat down with a teacher and said, "OK, look: Here are all the habits I have to break before I'm eligible to join the church, and I'm probably going to need help to break them."

He very gently, patiently, and above all, HONESTLY explained the spiritual reasons behind all the don'ts, and he explained them in a way that made sense -- much more sense than all the exaggerations and lies that had been foisted off on me in the past.

I didn't agree with him 100 percent on every single thing he said, and I probably never will -- we come from very different backgrounds and have very different world views -- but because he spoke with authority, in a kind and loving (instead of judgmental) way, and backed up his assertions with intelligent arguments, I trusted him. As our friendship has evolved over several months, all of my bad habits have slipped away -- easily, I might add -- and are being replaced with positive qualities and wonderful blessings.

It's really been a joy to uphold high moral standards because I *want* to, and not because somebody is threatening me with hellfire and damnation or some other such nonsense if I don't behave myself.

 
At 5/09/2006 02:23:00 AM, Anonymous veronika Wilcox said...

Have you heard of Peace Pilgrim?

 

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