Human / Animal

The first test for humans was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were told “Don’t eat this, it is bad for you.” We failed that test. God gave us our minds for reason and wants us to exercise self-control. This is what God was testing – were we humans or were we animals.

Self-control is the mark of a human versus an animal. Delayed gratification and restraint are the hallmarks of a human being – not just someone who is in the shape of the human but someone who actually is able to act like one. Saving versus spending, planning ahead – these are hallmarks of a mature human.

Yet God didn’t abandon us there when we failed that test. God stuck with us. God keeps giving us chances. God says “I set before you a blessing and a curse.” We have a choice about how we spend our time, our money, and our energy. We can use them for ourselves or for others. We can waste or use wisely.

Sure we have free will. But we also will experience the consequences of our choices too. If we choose to go against God’s commands, we will suffer. God doesn’t punish us because of our bad actions, we do.

It is like being told “Don’t touch the stove – it is hot.” When a child touches it anyway and burns her fingers, it isn’t the parent who his punishing her with her burned fingers. She did it to herself. The parent knows better, knows that this otherwise safe item, usually cool to touch, isn’t safe right now and warns the child. The child has a choice. She isn’t being forced to obey. If she chooses well then she has proven she is mature. God gives us these same kinds of choices.

People blame God for their heart disease and diabetes when they are the result of their unhealthy life choices such as eating salty fried processed food and not exercising. The problem is that they blame God for their own bad choices. They don’t take personal responsibility for their actions. They are acting like animals and not like humans.

You have to ask.

I don’t want to go to the hospital to watch my mother in law die. I will if I have to. I will if I’m asked. But I’m not going to second-guess my husband. I’ve spent ten years trying to guess what he wants, and doing things for him without him asking because it seemed like he needed me to. He seems to appreciate it, but I don’t think it is doing him or me any favors.

I’ve stood on this one.

Now may not be the nicest time to insist that he “use his words” but now is the time. He has to learn how to find his own voice, to know what he wants, and to ask for it. He also has to know how to say no to people and make decisions.

Part of making decisions is making bad decisions and standing behind them.

He’s made a hard decision recently, and we all supported him. Now it seems like he is going back on it, so he’s losing ground. Waffling, second and third guessing himself is part of his family inheritance. He’s going to lose face over this, and that is going to crush him. Yet another failure to add to the pile. I’m afraid that he’ll never stand up and make a hard decision again.

In part I’ve stayed away because I don’t want him to lean on me. I want him to stand on his own and make the hard decisions. I want him to grow up. I want him to become an adult. Having to ask other people’s opinions and approval all the time is not a sign of maturity.

This was going to be his crucible, his make-it-or-break-it moment.

I feel helpless, waiting around the house. I’ve done rituals and said prayers. I’ve done what I can to process this experience in a safe way so that it doesn’t hurt me. It is bringing back some memories from when my Mom died.

It has been since Wednesday night. Chaos, crisis, upset. Panic mode, emergency time. It is Sunday now, and she’s still alive, barely. I’m a little angry at her now, and I feel very selfish about it. She’s wasted our long weekend off together. Sure, there is some kindness in all this happening during non-work time, but it is still vexing.

This isn’t kind to say at all.

And it is very honest.

This isn’t life, her hanging on. It wasn’t life before, either. Home decorating isn’t giving back to the world. Vanity, selfish, image conscious – both of them. They just amplified each other’s narcissism until it became pathological. There was nobody to say “No”, so the psychic disease grew.

Her sons have spent more time with her now than she ever spent with them when they needed her. They’ve made sure she was better treated than she ever cared for them.

She wasn’t bad, or evil, but she wasn’t good either.

What an ugly death, and a bad situation. What a terrible legacy to leave.

And I’m angry at the medical establishment – we show more mercy to dogs.

Get your way (get out of your way)

There was a mom who came in the library recently. She picked out a bunch of books with her young son and then came up to the front desk to get a library card. Then she found out that because she lives in a different county she would have to pay a $50 annual fee to use this library.

She handled it perfectly. Some people get indignant. Some will shout “This is a free public library!” This is illogical. The books have to be paid for somehow. They don’t magically appear. Some think they are being clever and ask if they can use their relative’s address in this county. Or they ask to use the address on their license, which they have already admitted isn’t where they live.

Don’t try to get me to help you lie. It isn’t going to work. I’m not going to get fired for something stupid. I’m ok with bending some rules, but not the ones that I totally agree with. This one I agree with. You get what you pay for. Library funding in this state comes out of property taxes. You have to provide proof of current address to get a library card. It isn’t much to ask for to get to read all the books you want for free.

This lady not only took it in stride, she helped her son with it. He was distraught that he couldn’t get these books. He was sobbing, and his voice was going up in pitch and volume. In his mind, we were stealing from him. Some parents have not known how to deal with this strong emotion from their children and turn it back on the staff. Some have actually spun on us and said “you tell my daughter why she can’t have her books”. This is bad parenting.

We are strongly discouraged at work from saying what we want to say. Sometimes we are provided scripts for tricky situations. This is not one of those that we have a script for. I’m pointing out the ways this interaction has gone wrong in the past to illustrate how surprising this one was.

This mom picked up her son and hugged him. She patted him on the back. She made consoling sounds. And she totally took the blame. She realized that she should have checked about getting a card before she got the books with him. And she let him cry it out. She didn’t distract him. She let him have his emotion.

We are not comfortable with strong feelings. We are so afraid of them in ourselves and in others that we often try to cover them up or run right through them.

Breathe through them. Let them happen. If you push them down or shove them aside they will resurface in uglier ways, with terrible faces. Resentment becomes alcoholism. Being abused becomes incessant pain, stomach upset, or road rage. Feeling left out or ignored produces a bully.

It is ok to not get your way all the time. It is the mark of a well adjusted person who can handle that. It isn’t the feelings that are the problem. It is what you do with them. We’ve either forgotten that, or we never learned it. We want to push through the bad feeling straight to the good feeling. We shortchange our growth when we do this. Our society teaches quick fixes and instant gratification. Nothing good comes of this. There is no abiding sense of satisfaction that comes from this.

I remember once I’d spent the day hiking the dry riverbed at Fall Creek Falls state park with a friend. It was a bear of a hike. What would have been a 6 mile hike was more like 11 because it wasn’t a straight path what with climbing up and down the boulders in the riverbed. We were sore. We were exhausted. We hadn’t quite prepared for this.

When we finally got to the end, we went to the restaurant and had a fine meal. We were surrounded by people who had just driven there. We’d spent the day hiking, and they’d spent the day driving.

I have a strong suspicion that we appreciated our meal more.

The same is true with maturity. It takes the long path, and a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts. And part of getting there is pain. But pain can be transformative. It can be alchemical. Work with it, and through it, and because of it. You’ll savor life more. Sure it hurts. But as Carl Jung says “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”