Verse of the Day
for Thursday, February 8, 2018
for Thursday, February 8, 2018
Bin Laden’s death after a decade on the run unloosed a national wave of euphoria in the USA mixed with memory of the thousands who died in the Sept. 11th 2001, from attacks by terrorists. Crowds celebrated throughout the night outside the White House and at ground zero in Lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Thousands of students in many college towns spilled into the streets and set off firecrackers to mark the moment.
Although details of the raid remain sketchy, one can’t help wondering if the US could have tried harder to capture bin Laden alive and put him on trial rather than carrying out a summary execution. We don’t know to what extent if any there was any danger to the attacking forces bursting in on bin Laden of him detonating a hidden explosive device. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Williams, said: “I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done.” Few pundits have resisted the opportunity to ridicule him for this. Were they right to do this or was he right in what he said?
Just how should we react to terrorists? How should we deal with those who murder or incite murder?
We all need to live and work without fear in a fair and peaceful society. Those in authority must protect us from violence. The ideal of course is to prosecute such people in the courts of justice with a view to secure custody for all our protection. Many people believe that the threat of punishment sometimes deters violence and murder. Even if crimes of passion cannot always be deterred, as perhaps is the case with some terrorists, at least punishment teaches the rest what is unacceptable behaviour.
But punishment is also viewed as ‘them getting what they deserve’ – in other words, retribution. I can’t help wondering if the motive for the Americans trespassing on another country’s sovereign territory and engaging in assassination was rather like an act of revenge – a natural response but hardly a spiritual one. It smacks of getting one’s own back for wounded pride and asserting one’s dominance.
Spiritually speaking, hatred is not a healthy emotion – it burns up relationships, families and communities. And so it might be argued that responding to violence with violence just feeds violence and that Bin Laden is more dangerous dead than alive. After all Al-Qa’eda is no longer a mere organisation but a global franchise that now has a martyr helping recruitment to its cause. He will become a murdered unarmed hero in the eyes of those in the Middle East experiencing deep rage against the West.
Many justify assassination as ‘rough justice’ when the alternative of arrest and prosecution is not available – as a justifiable act of ‘war on evil’. But terrorists justify their violence as an act of war on the evil of the West.
Are both sides not making a mistake? Is it not simplistic to see human behaviour only in terms of good and evil? According to this view we can say terrorism is evil but not conclude that a specific terrorist is evil. Why not? Well if we think about it, we realise that there are people who do not seem to believe that acts of terror are wrong. Mind you, they must realise nearly everybody believes this to be true. However, knowing what society says is wrong is different from understanding why it is wrong and acknowledging one should not do it. It is different again from wanting in one’s heart to turn away from wrongdoing. If a young person has grown up among adults who habitually fight members of other tribes and are proud of their warrior status, we can hardly expect him or her to realise that such behaviour is really bad even if one is not caught.
If we brand someone as evil, we neglect our own faults. We get so taken up with condemnation that we neglect what it is about our own behaviour that requires examination, like the decadence in parts of Western culture, our uncritical support for Israel against the Palestinians, and our support of Arab autocrats for the sake of oil.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
I know who my enemy is: the individual who maliciously damages my property: tramps all over the flower-bed in the garden: scratches the car with a key: trashes the home during a burglary. I feel angered by anyone who threatens to harm my sense of well-being. These are the people I want to complain about and get my own back on. So how on earth does one stop hating such people. How do you ‘love’ your enemy? Here are some tips I find useful.
Step back from a situation. Then you can start to observe your angry thoughts. Begin to reflect on where they are getting you. When you are feeling angry remember that bitterness will inwardly eat away at your sense of contentment. On the other hand a less negative attitude to the person who has offended you hinders this horrible emotion staying with you. You can’t be positive and negative at the same time. One attitude removes its opposite.
Consider whether becoming calm about your enemy helps your loved ones and friends around you remain calm. They would be affected by your anger, having to listen to your moaning about the person you resent. However, unless you stop your enemy hurting you, your family will feel you are a pushover and feel frustrated with you for this reason.
Understand the harm you could cause to the children in your life by voicing contempt for someone. Children copy the role models provided by the adults around them. A child can readily imitate the idea it is okay to adopt a hate-filled contemptuous attitude. And you will have harmed their sense of right and wrong.
When reflecting on some injustice done to you, bear in mind that we get a more fractured and divided society the more people there are who are filled with feelings of hate; a society where conflict and social disorder are more likely to emerge. And the opposite is true — if we all can overcome enmity, and learn to forgive those whom have hurt us, then society is better off in so many ways. Reconciliation that involves compensation for injury can be extremely powerful and important. Getting on better with an enemy would improve the lives of two people at the same time.
Make a fair assessment of your enemy’s actions. Try to hate the wrong-doing rather than the wrong-doer, the action rather than the perpetrator. This will help you to focus on trying to prevent any repeat of the behaviour that made you so angry.
See times of hate within yourself as a challenge to your growing maturity. Don’t take the Gospel phrase about turning the other cheek in a literal way. The message is not about masochism but rather about not automatically fighting back when injured. Do what you can to stop the enemy behaving badly towards you whilst remembering that a heavenly state of mind is to take no delight in any act of retaliation or revenge. Our spiritual challenge is to adopt a charitable attitude to everyone including those who behave badly towards us.
Try to establish lines of communication with your enemy. Look for some common ground. Reach out to them. Instead of fighting what has happened and who this person is, and wanting them to be different, try to accept them for who they are — warts and all. You won’t be able to change them only hope to affect their actions. Resign yourself to what has happened as a part of life. Put up with the fact that things can’t be different, because they have already happened.
Get to know their perspective. Are you jumping to any conclusions? What is he or she really like? Try to understand why someone might have got to where they are and why they did what they did. Perhaps they have some mitigating circumstances — school failure, broken home, drugged parent, unemployment, being easily led, having a sense of frustration at feeling undervalued. None of these factors of course excuses criminal behaviour but might help to explain it and make you feel better about the person. Of course no mitigating circumstances may be found although bear in mind that any may be possible until you get to know the person better. Give the enemy the benefit of any doubt.
Look for something in the person that is likeable. Everyone has a good side somewhere if you look hard enough to find it.
Show them how hurt you have been by what they have done, pointing out the consequences of their misdeeds in a non-condemning way. You will feel better about them if they show some degree of acknowledgement of what you are saying. It is less difficult to have a charitable attitude to those who acknowledge they were in the wrong. Don’t be too quick to forgive someone who has done you great harm if they show no remorse: at least don’t try to forgive such a person in your own strength alone.
If these tips are not enough try attending an anger management class, professional therapy or ask for spiritual help. Many people say that prayer is an important component in their dealing with the difficult individuals in their lives.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
There’s a lot about life I rather dislike e.g. crime, bad parenting, shoddy goods in the shops, bad-tempered colleagues, dishonest politicians, and the list goes on and on. I bet at some point we all have wanted to blame misfortune, fate, or life itself for not giving us what we think we need. Feeling disgruntled may even be your normal attitude. But if you actually say “I hate life”, it can make you extremely negative, disliking anybody and everybody.
On an internet forum one person wrote:
” I hate life. I neither like how it’s been nor how its going. I’ve had it with life. I give up. There is no point in me continuing. Whatever I do and try, it never works out. I can’t get a job. My life is pointless. Every one has made me negative. … No one appreciates me, its all an act.”
And another person said:
“I hate every feature on every worthless face I see. I know the hate and evil in mankind and I hate it.”
These are two unhappy people who are not okay with the world. They appear to see the problem as out there in a sick and uncaring society. If you suffer from chronic illness, are out of a job, got no money or had an unhappy childhood, then you may feel you are a hopeless victim of inadequate health care, unemployment, an unfair educational system, or neglectful or abusive parents – right? But you would also have a problem for, being at odds with society, you won’t feel at home in the world and won’t get pleasure in life. And maybe you wonder will you ever feel differently?
Here are just three things you can do that might help.
We may live with the experience of sickness and suffering but to reject the world as broken, is arguably an unreasonably jaundiced view.
Yes, there is a lot that is bad with life and it would be silly to go around with rose tinted glasses. But often in a desire to find fault we avoid looking at ourselves. Instead we criticise others unfairly, exaggerate their failings, jump to conclusions on flimsy evidence, or see everything in terms of only black and white when really there are several shades of grey.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” (Mark Twain)
If you say “I hate life” because of a mood of despair then you have probably drifted into a cynical attitude that denies anything of value.
To say “I hate life” also suggests that the bitterness, that came from bitter experiences, is still with you. If so, you are probably in a constant state of private complaint against the world and there is the danger that your bitterness can eat you up.
“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, because hate in your heart will consume you too.” (Will Smith)
Often, there is not much if anything one can do about the bad side of life. But occasionally it can be possible to use the energy of your anger to do something constructive. Instead of taking on the passive role of a victim of swindlers, hypocrites, and social nuisances and stewing over their behaviour, it may be possible to get your anger out into the open and do something about it. If you have been fearfully hiding away from challenges you might try facing life head on. Why not stand up to malpractice and bullies, whilst realising you can’t fix all the world?
You could go to an anger management class and learn how to effectively assert justifiable anger in socially acceptable ways and get it out of your system rather than let it smoulder away inside. Learn to distinguish between destructive and constructive anger. Discover how to watch out for that kind of angry frustration which comes upon us when perhaps for good reasons we don’t get what we want from someone or don’t get our own way. People who do get up your nose will not deserve condemnation despite any initial feelings of contempt you might have for them. But you might be able to influence them.
If you say “I hate life” then instead of only seeing the bad side of everything and everybody, why not try to see your cup as half-full rather than half empty? This might mean looking for something likeable in someone you don’t take to. It might mean searching for something you can sympathise with in a person who is against you. Instead of giving up on someone why not try to develop the relationship?
“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.” (Jimi Hendrix)
You may want to give up on someone when you feel vulnerable in their company but if you stick with trying to communicate with them you may be surprised at finding a positive feeling of involvement.
Finding a warmer feeling towards others comes more easily when we are looking for the good in them and being ready to excuse them when they behave badly e.g. by being non-judgemental and being open to the possibility of any mitigating circumstances. According to Emanuel Swedenborg’s visionary experiences of an afterlife, finding fault with others is an aspect of a hellish state of mind whereas a heavenly state of mind is looking for the good in others.
“Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.” (Sai Baba)
Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems