One of the aspects of contemporary life that I just don't understand is how voraciously important it is to create rules, political platforms, or control structures that attempt to control others. I know control is the nature of a social contract, and is why most debates end up being about the how things work, and not whether or not they are a concern (i.e. poverty and welfare). After all, what else is it than a form of control to say that speeding, tax evasion, and robbery are wrong? To be clear, I understand the social contract and our need to thoughtfully engage in it. Yet the mud-slinging and rhetoric we see of political systems that demonize everything from the opposite party while turning a blind-eye to their own in the sake of power and control is flat-out wrong.
When we attempt to control others' actions without acknowledging the need to limit or control our own, then we've lost sight of the human condition. Namely, that we all mess up sometimes, while other times glorious and good things spring forth. Of course this can be worked out in different ways by theologians, philosophers, and scientists of amateur and professional rank as to how and why this occurs, but that is another discussion.
My point is why do we focus so much attention on controlling others when we all would recognize that self-control is so hard?
I believe that we must first start with ourselves, recognizing what is within my control and what is not, and focus attention on what is controllable. For instance, an angry encounter with a total stranger during rush-hour may not have been my doing, yet how I react to the encounter completely is in my control.
Someone could belittle or insult me on Facebook, or turn a discussion into a personal attack, which is out of my control, but the way that I handle and respond is within my control.
Others have different beliefs and viewpoints than I do, which is out of my control. How I treat them, engage them, and interact with them is completely in my control.
Or at least they should be. I know its hard to do completely, which again leads to this recognition of us not being perfect.
Even if my beliefs were completely right (which they aren't - that is impossible for anyone of us, we're not infallible!), I would still act in contradiction with those beliefs in moments, whether caused by thought out reason or emotions.
And in this comes humility, to recognize this nature in all of us, and to allow ourselves to give others the room we give ourselves in messing up.
Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace.
Basically, each day before I can even begin to interact with others on the ways we approach societal impacts, I must look internally at how I need to act today. For me, this is a submission of my will to the will of God. I will not bear fruit without this connection, and I must let myself be molded by them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
With each of these, we kind of have to let them take over us. We can't really force ourselves to be patient, and even trying to force self-control will only last so far. So somehow, this idea of control is subject to what is virtuous, what is noble, what is pure. We let it roll over us and guide us to act as we should, and look not to our own gain. (probably another post for another time)
So, in the words of Gandhi, we really should "be the change you want to see in the world." I need to look at my life, at those habits to form and those to break. To develop self-control in a relaxed grip on allowing humility, allowing grace and kindness, to take hold within me.
I know it is what I need help with.
Wouldn't it be so cool if our Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with statements demonstrating love, peace, joy, compassion, empathy, sharing of burdens, kindness, and deference?
Is this not the contrast that we really see Paul talking about in many of his letters?
Do we not see lists of the ways we get so wrapped up in the wrong things, and then we focus back on the virtues which bring harmony and peace back to our lives?
Is this not what Jesus called his followers to do?
I think Jesus called us to a way of life rooted in relationship, which is based in character and virtue, not a system of belief that must dominate or win out a control structure in my personal life or society.
So I choose to start with myself today, taking control of what I can back. To somehow, in the midst of the plurality of our day, recognize that all I can control is my action.
Only my thoughts, actions, reactions, attitudes, and intentions are in my control.
Join me in shying away from pointing the finger at others, and simply acknowledge we all have work to do.
The only place to start and make an impact in the social contract is to start with ourselves.
After all, God continues to give us the room to do so...he doesn't force us to behave, but loving calls and compels us to!
Hmm...we're right back to the summation of the entire Torah, the Law, which Jesus and others recognized as loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.
I think that's a pretty good place to start. So I'm going to keep on trying.
Let's see this world changed.