Am I a good person?
People will ask me at times what I think of our human nature. I will speak from my own experience of myself, as well as use the words and concepts of a Christian.
Am I a good person? Well no, I do not believe that I am. I often have to struggle to simply make the more humane choice, because at heart I am still self centered in the worst sense of the word. I am prone to self destructive behavior; I have to work on not using others, to reducing them to the level of a ‘thing’ or an ‘object’ to be used. I am lazy, driven by my desire for comfort and safety.
If left to myself, if I become indolent in my spiritual life I will drift towards chaos. In the Christian tradition this is called ‘sin’. It is not an action, but a state of being, of self centered being, of making oneself the only real thing, the center of the universe. The evil that I actually carry out is ‘sin’ but it has its roots in my human nature. In Christianity we call this fallen. So left to myself, I am in hell, isolated from others, but only capable of using or of going against them, at heart I am at war. This does not mean that I am totally evil either, but in need of healing mercy and grace. I say this without being neurotic about it, guilt is guilt, and it leads to self knowledge.
The ‘flesh’ is concerned with survival, with eating, procreating, acquiring power and prestige. The more I desire any of the above, things that I find ‘good’, becomes in the end, that which causes me to do evil. Because I have to go after what I desire, over and against others who seek the same things. We see it in our cultures. Life is hard, we seek to escape it, either through pleasure, power or love in all of its forms. All or much of it is self centered and doomed to failure.
Yet I also desire the good, the holy, to become whole and to love others. Christ says in order to find life we have to die to ourselves, so that a bigger, better, more expansive life can take root and grow. It is grace I believe that calls us to this new life. Christians know this because of Christ Jesus, all others who seek this are responding to the grace of Christ I believe. Jesus said “seek and you shall find”.
Many people fight this concept of sin, yet it seems to be the best term to show the mess we continually get ourselves in. Our wars, with other countries…. with ourselves and those around us, as well as the inhumane aspects of our cultures, the striving of personal power over others, and the acquiring of more wealth that we can ever spend and ignoring the needs and suffering of others…all point to the reality of sin.
In the end, all must submit to the truth, we each seek it I believe, some more consciously than others, but we are all seekers. It is the submission that is the hard part, to understand that there is a deeper center calling us, to me that center is Jesus Christ. Knowing that I am loved, sought after by the Infinite love, compassion and intelligence, causes me to respond by allowing this love, mercy and grace into my heart. Life changes after that, the center changes, and is replaced by the True Center. When we seek, we are responding to graces promptings. It is not esoteric, hidden, but there in our everyday lives, in the people we meet, the friends we make, what we read. We are challenged by our culture, by others, to choose, the way to a deeper more expansive life is the harder road to travel.
Understanding the reality of sin and my own struggles, I am not shocked nor am I surprised by the failures of others, be it politics or in the religious arena. Without grace, or our seeking after it, we will sink into an abyss. In order for the world to change, it has to come from the transformation of the heart, from that will flow the healing of our societies. Government programs will not help, nor will more laws, nor fighting, nor endless debates. The transformed heart is a loving heart, for it then is free to live out the image that it is made in.—Br.MD