I have mixed feelings about this subject, as I don’t want to endorse the shame-guilt-and-fear-of-hell control methods of established religions and cults. I know from experience that external sources of judgment can be very abusive and hypocritical.
However, whether or not there is an after-life, possibly fear, guilt and shame are part of our lives anyway. Can we use these emotions to motivate ourselves and judge ourselves constructively sometimes?
On the other hand, we know that these strong emotions can be very paralyzing, so I think that there is a time and place for everything. We know that fear is something that needs to be overcome but possibly it’s the same with shame and guilt. They need to be dealt with, treated constructively (making amends, repentance) and then put aside until they are relevant again. Fear of disapproval can be a constructive thing. Maybe even fear of failure can be constructive sometimes. The Bible advocates “Fear of the Lord,” as a good thing while warning against fear in other contexts. “Fear of the Lord” can be interpreted as the fear of living a bad life, the fear of being a bad person, the fear of not doing what one ought to do with their life. This is the subject of this post.
I’ll start this with the disclaimer that I pick and choose from the Bible and other sources–while judging freely (rejecting even statements by Jesus if necessary) and thinking for myself.
I don’t just see my religious background as negative. I try to draw on my own experiences and think realistically and practically about the problems we face. I believe that communicating ideas is part of the solution. I don’t think that being overwhelmed, going along and being quiet is the way to go. Something tells me that this approach doesn’t add up to any kind of positive outcome. If we want to reduce damage done by this system, we need to engage with the world somehow.
This is the continuation of a theme. Previously I wrote about the subject of the value of the Lord’s Prayer and speculated about the possibility of spiritual assistance for those engaged in constructive engagement with the system.
It seems like a passive approach, but it is not, because at the very least the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”) focuses the mind on the key goal and key methods of winning against evil:
1) The need for deliverance from the evil system of lies and death (which goes along with the huge hurdle of recognizing it in the first place).
2) Escaping sources of temptation that lure us into states of spiritual and emotional paralysis and slow death. Our defences are down but they need to be up.
3) Forgiveness and reconciliation with others. To miss this is to miss the boat. Concern for others. Holding on to your family and friends. Having your own family if you can.
In a similar way, exploring the personal issues of fear and motivation may seem to be a passive exercise, but it’s not at all. It is fundamental to any kind of success. We need to know and understand ourselves. We need to overcome ourselves.
I think all of the following is mainly about me judging myself and this is possibly of value to others if they are willing to do the same. It’s offered with the caveat that you should also be fair to yourself and others.
Ironically or not, the lyrics of “Lullaby for the New World Order” by Matthew Good (http://www.metrolyrics.com/lullaby-for-the-new-world-order-lyrics-matthew-good.html) started me off on this other train of thought. Here is one of the verses put very simply:
If God he gave you a voice
Then use it
In another song, “Near Fantastica (http://www.metrolyrics.com/near-fantastica-lyrics-matthew-good.html)” he refers to fear being the “mind killer”:
Can’t fear fear, fear is the mind killer
It sounds reasonable. We don’t want to fear fear. We want to face it but not let it overpower us.
I believe that the last part of this verse comes from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. . . . I will face my fear. . . .
What is Expected of Us?
I try to interpret song lyrics in a fair way but I’m not condoning all the lyrics. Another verse by the same musician is “Failing the Rorschach Test” (http://www.metrolyrics.com/failing-the-rorschach-test-lyrics-matthew-good-band.html):
Mother told me to be something
So I’m afraid
Enough to stay wide awake
So, there is fear of disappointing our parents or others or ourselves. Is this helpful? Is it constructive? I’m sure this could be abused and overused, so we need to think for ourselves. I think if some expectation is realistic for us, then maybe this is a legitimate function of these emotions in our own minds towards our own life, and we can’t get away from some of these expectations.
So . . .
On the one hand:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
Maybe the following verse goes too far:
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Having a terror of being fearful is kind of ironic. I think the issue should be about how we deal with our fear and refusing to be ruled by fear.
On the other hand:
12 And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
What are the Expectations of Jesus?
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Going further, all of Matthew 25 is a strongly-worded set of parables about what is expected of us in this life and how it is tied to reward and punishment in an after-life or resurrection. I’m just going to quote from the parable that is most relevant – the “Parable of the Talents”, a talent being a unit of currency:
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Notice how he failed to act because he was afraid, or that’s how he excused his failure. Fear is connected again with laziness, as in Proverbs. Fear defeated him.
You might understand what I’m getting at after reading that. Nobody is supposed to take a parable literally anyway, but you can tell that the author meant to terrify the readers with a fear of what happens to them at the final judgment – in the after-life in other words. I am not so sure there is such a state after we die.
But I can assure you that we don’t escape our own expectations and those of others we adopt rightly or wrongly, and we end up having to live with our missed opportunities and our laziness, and failures to act.
This could involve relatively small things in life, maybe things that don’t matter much or it could involve things that really do matter–and sometimes we are the only ones who know but that doesn’t mean others aren’t affected.
I am not qualified to preach to people. I just have this realization and knowledge to share.
We have this life. This is the one we have that we know about. We should make the most of it according to our knowledge and abilities. Or else we may end up living with regrets and even too many regrets. I wish to avoid more regrets. I am perhaps justified in feeling a fear of adding more regrets to my pile by dealing constructively with this particular fear– the fear of my own judgment against myself. There are many stories and even fairy-tales for children that point to how serious the consequences can be of wrong decisions in life –including inaction–and being overcome by fear or other strong emotions.
Regardless of what religious beliefs we have, it’s probably of value to think about this and apply it to our own lives day by day.
Could we help turn things around if we spent more time facing up to the problems in this world and less time on distractions?
I know that many people are under a strong delusion (as the Bible says also), but to believe that can’t be overcome is part of the system’s strategy. I suspect we can make a huge dent in the “progress” of this “Brave New World” if we apply ourselves to doing so.
If we catch a glimpse of success here and there, then it helps us see our goal as achievable–a more natural and human world. However, even without that, if we can feel good about ourselves and our efforts, then at least we have achieved something personally that may also endure spiritually as a source of inspiration to others as they carry on.
Comments are welcome