This is something of a conflicted post, in that it is rather like thinking aloud, rather than attempting to provide answers. It is a reflection on the feelings that sometimes are felt about how it is that we are to treat those around us. To be honest, much of it doesn’t make sense, even to me, and I am the one who is writing it.
To be honest, when I find myself in a darker mood, I sometimes wish that in some ways that I was alone, completely isolated from all those around me, and unable to hurt them.
The reason is that one of the greatest fears in the world for me is that I would hurt those I love. It is terrifying for me to ponder the idea of it. I start asking myself questions, such as can I be something I don’t want to be? I don’t want to hurt people, but is it inevitable that somewhere, at some point, I’m going to hurt someone? My reason, says, yes, at some point I am going to hurt someone. Some of my worst memories are the times that I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve hurt someone. My deepest regrets are always when I’ve hurt someone I love, or even someone, whether I feel any particular feeling of love towards them or not.
There are so many whom I dread hurting. And the most terrifying thing can be to look in the mirror, and it’s hard not to see a monster there, even though in my heart I know it isn’t true. The question “What if?” haunts me. What if I hurt someone, and don’t mean to? What if I do mean to? What if I make someone feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and so forth. What if. It is a dangerous question to ask oneself, I suppose, one that can quickly turn to a self-imposed defeat before we even attempt to do good. Yet it is a question that continuously haunts me. “What if?” Two words, but upon them, there can hang in the balance, everything. It can be summed up in another word, a single word: Doubt.
The relationships between people can be complicated indeed. I have to ask, am I responsible for the reactions of others, or am I only responsible for my own actions? It isn’t an easy question to answer, though I suppose it depends entirely on the circumstances. If I am being kind to someone and they return evil, am I responsible for their evil because they returned evil for kindness? No. Now if I gave them evil, and they returned evil? Still, they are not responsible for my evil, nor am I responsible for their evil response, and yet, I am, because I did provoke them with my evil. This is where it gets complicated, and from what I can tell, the way to avoid being at fault, is to do good, and not evil. Seems simple enough, but it gets challenging when one suffers for doing the right thing. That can, and does, happen. Yet, it seems clear to me, that if we return good for evil, and are good and kind towards others, we cannot do wrong in doing so. But if we are evil towards others, we are not only responsible for our evil, but to an extent we are also responsible for the provoking of evil in the other, it will be more of our own fault than the other person, if we provoke them. Therefore, to do good makes sense. The question is, I suppose, whether I’m bound by fate and nature to have moments of failure and cruelty, or if I might choose to do right, in spite of both fate and nature. I find comfort in the notion of being able to choose to do the right thing, it means I do not have to be cruel because both fate and nature demands it of me. It isn’t human nature to be cruel, it is to be less than human. I cannot justly justify wrong-doing with my claim to humanity. Whether I am human or not, I am responsible for the evil that I do. But, there is also in this, the incredible freedom to make the right choice. My fears are unfounded, I do have a say in this matter. I’m not required to hurt people. Neither fate, nor nature, can rob me of the choice to do good. It doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy, in many ways, it requires a measure of constant vigilance. It becomes a matter of looking at the whole of ones character, rather than an individual theoretical incident. You have to have a character that responds, innately, with the right choice, rather than one that will be regretted. This is why it is a difficult thing, you’re not permitted to privately stew about things that you are angry or hurt about. It means you have to have a heart that responds in love, rather than bitterness. There is no room for pride, or self-centeredness, for the one who desires to respond correctly.
I suppose we must consider how we view ourself. Are we a curse or a blessing? I must stop and consider that perhaps those around me are blessed by my presence. How can this be? Who am I? I am no-one. I am the never-man, the man that never was. I cannot be a blessing to those around me, how is such a thing possible.
But then, ponder for a moment, are other people the product of your imagination? Do not these exist outside of my mind? These people were precious before I’d ever heard of them, or saw them.
Take for example, my friend, Alice, who is revealed to me in her mystery, something of a paradoxal being. She is more invisible than I, yet the more invisible she is the more visible she becomes. Yet, even with this extraordinary person who is and is not, I cannot deny her existence. There is no doubt in my heart and mind that Alice exist. That all my friends exist, and each of them has something special or unique about them, something that surprises me.
The others are proof of my existence, and in turn I must conclude that if I exist so do all these. The reality of the existence of these others, and that in one way or another they can surprise me suggest to me that I truly exist. We prove each other to be true, by the fact that we are separate entities from each other. It is the value of surprise.
Therefore, If I truly exist, and these truly exist, I am capable of not only being blessed, but more incredibly to my mind, being a blessing. The idea of being a blessing, is to me, a very thrilling one. Much more so than being blessed in some ways, as thrilling as that is, I am thankful for all the many blessings that come my way, even those that were not quite intended, sometimes, quite the opposite, are nevertheless things that can be received as blessings. I would not have my greatest works if not for my darkest hours. For that I must be thankful, time and time again, I have the honor, the blessing, of watching ashes turn to beauty, even in places where I thought I saw beauty turn to ash.
However, it is not with cruelty that I wish to bless others, even if I have received things that were cruel in their intent as a blessing once I saw what it produced, I would not wish that upon another, not by my hand. Therefore, I say no to the notion of ‘helping’ with cruelty, for while a good work may be accomplished, much more damage will result than good. I am not an advocate of violence-based, or even fear-based, disciplinary methods. They may produce some good, but the damage will always be greater than the good produced, and is not worth the little good that is produced. It is much better to train with gentleness and love, leading by example, with humility and honor, but never pride. Pride kills, pride destroys, pride brings all to ruin in the end. Never pride.
The difficult part, I suppose, is correcting without hurting. Few things can torment a soul like a wounded spirit, and too often in our desire to correct, we wound, rather than heal.
But where I find the courage? I do have to ask, however, what if the inflicting of hurt was the only way to save them? Could I do it? Would I? Again, where can one find the courage to do this, and do it right? I mean, I suppose one would have to be certain that one has not a plank in their own eye before they could remove the speak from another’s eye. Where can I find the courage to face the inner darkness that is in me so that I might help another with the little thing in them? In many ways, facing oneself in this way, is perhaps one of the most frightening things we might do, but I do not know if one can justly seek to remove the speck in another’s eye, if I have a plank in my own.
It is difficult to judge at times, what it is that causes harm, and what it is that heals. We must be cautious, so cautious, and remember that people are indeed precious. They are easily crushed, easily broken, and words can cause the greatest wounds. The break us, sometimes for years, or they may build us up. Speak wisely, and gently, even if a little wound is necessary. It is better to speak gently, but wound, than to speak flattery and intend harm. Nevertheless, do not seek to wound, without first seeking to heal, or you cannot help.
Again, I do not know if I have the courage to wound, even for the sake of healing, I so dislike the idea of hurting someone, that I cannot understand how this can be beneficial. It escapes my understanding how any sort of hurting in this way may be of more benefit than gentleness and grace. Perhaps, I am ignorant, and haven’t had to face these things experientially yet, perhaps. I don’t know. I do know, that I desire to build up, and not tear down, to encourage, and not break, to heal, and not wound, those who are around me.
Neither do I wish to flatter, as this is a form of wounding as well, in that it doesn’t tell someone the truth, it is a lack of trust, and a desire to flatter my own pride more than any real desire of helping. At the same time, I don’t wish to hold back my enthusiasm in being complimentary, if I feel passionately that someone did a wonderful job with something, how can I not praise them for it? Naturally, if I honestly believe that what they did well, was well done indeed, I cannot think that it is flattering them to encourage them, even enthusiastically.
In other words, it seems to me that relationships can be a rather complicated notion, but worth the effort, but it is important to be honest, and to seek to love, and be good, to not take advantage, but to seek to serve the other, to seek to bless, to heal, to build up.
I desire to be a blessing to those around me, not a curse. Yet, sometimes, it is hard to tell where the line is drawn between them. My dream is to bless, my fear is to hurt. My hope is to choose rightly, and fear not.