Two brothers grew up in a tough neighborhood. They had to learn fast–run fast or lose your shoes, hat or coat to the bullies. One of the boys became a bully and drank heavily to escape his anger and bitterness and didn’t live a happy life. The other boy worked hard and became a school teacher and loving father. Why did they turn out so differently?
One of the famous Greek philosophers, Diogenes, had a shameful beginning. He and his father were caught counterfeiting money. Diogenes was so ashamed he ran away to Athens. Later, after he gained fame for his wisdom, he said, “It was through this I came to be a philosopher.”
When I was a boy I didn’t have many possessions and my best friend had a lot of toys and spare change laying around. I stole a bag of pennies and a puppet–and I got caught. I was so ashamed I never stole anything again. It was through this that I came to respect property. Maybe all of us have some difficult childhood experiences (or many) that tempers our actions for the rest of our lives. Most likely, in the teen or preteen years, we make a decision about life. Life is a terrible struggle and I must fight others to get what I want. Or, I must not fight others, but rather improve myself and get what I want.
A trauma causes us to experience an energy inside we must sooner or later resolve or express. Often the first reaction is the childish desire to strike back, throw toys, knock down the castle. This is one of the most difficult things about being a human. This desire to destroy must be resisted until a more peaceful idea gives an outlet for our powerful energy. (And all of us are full of very powerful energy). Then we must act constructively and creatively to release this energy. This doesn’t meant we may not defend ourselves from bullies or predators. But the motivation must be for renewed peace and tranquility–not revenge.
Motivation is an important word in the human experience. What is your motive? (What puts you into motion?) Did you intend harm, or good? We believe God intends only good, and good alone. God allows us to have wonderful experiences and also hard experiences. Yet God’s intention if for us to learn and profit from every experience, no matter how challenging. What is the lesson? What is the message?
Our so-called enemy has a message for us. Not only that, God’s highest intention is for us to respond with love, fairness and forgiveness in every situation. Only the child of a god could ever achieve such all enduring love.
Thus we praise the enlightened men and women who expressed such love, who we now deem saints or avatars (which means God coming to earth in a body). But we must come to understand we are all children of the same God; that God by what-ever name created all of us capable of expressing this greatest love. God sends enlightened ones to show us this greatest love is possible, not just for rare and exalted mortals, but for all human beings. These supreme achievements of love are painted on the darkest panels of human history. Yet we must have our terrible experiences to achieve this greatest love.
God knows all of this will take much time, in this world or the next. So we must accept our experiences as lessons. That is all they are intended to be. None of it is punishment. Much of it is a consequence of our previous behavior. An enlightened one said, “Forgive your enemies.” Now we understand: Forgive your persecutor quickly, for he is really a messenger, a teacher, though that may not be his intention.
As long as we are angry, we have a lesson to learn. As long as we are feeling frightened, distressed, spiteful, intolerant, unforgiving–we have a lesson to learn. God will keep sending messengers. Until we respond every time in every situation with love, as enlightened beings, God will send us more lessons, more experiences, until we learn to love.
No matter what is happening to you there is only one question to ask: What must love do? Phil