Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Why do hurtful things happen to me?
The fifth existential question which a good theology must answer is why do hurtful things happen to me?
The Christian answer is that hurtful things happen to you because you are a sinner. If you don't believe you are and hurtful things happen, you get mad at God because God is not being fair. Some people give up their religion because it doesn't work for them any more.
Buddhists believe hurtful things happen because of their attachments and because they still have bad karma to work out in this reincarnation.
Humanists believe that hurtful things happen out of stupidity, lack of knowledge, maliciousness on the part of perpetrators, and a lack of understanding of natural forces which we cannot control.
Unitarian Universalists would probably say that hurtful things happen because of a lack of justic, equity, and compassion in human relations, a lack of peace, liberty and justice for all, and the lack of respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
What is hurtful, like suffering, is for the most part, subjectively defined. Hurt is how we take things, the meaning that we make out of events, rather than the event itself. What might be tragic to one person may be a minor irritation or a welcomed turn of events to someone else. You live very much in a society which, because of its competitiveness, sees situations in terms of winning and loosing.
When we loose things important to us we hurt and when we hurt we blame and accuse and when this doesn't work we blame ourselves and begin to believe that at a cosmic level we are getting what we deserve, or the world is terribly unjust.
The spiritual practice which manages hurt the best is forgiveness. Forgiveness requires the telling and listening to stories of distress and pain. Forgiveness requires the free and responsible search for truth which our egos frequently defend against because our need to be right and to save face and prevent shame lead to deceit, secrecy, and disengenuousness. Forgiveness requires an apology and the ego says that being right is the foremost requirement for its continued existence and submitting to the truth through apology means the destruction of the ego and a submission to the greater good which the ego fears. Lastly, forgiveness requires the making of amends which is the repairing of the harm done. We owe this to others to assuage their hurt, and they it to us to assuage our hurt. Many times people and situations are not good for it, and so we look to Life to make it up to us. At this point, the spiritual practice of gratitude becomes very important so that we can become aware of our blessings instead of our deprivations.
Unfoturnately, human beings seem to be programmed for vengeance. "I hurt and so you should hurt too." or "I have been hurt terribly in my life, so what are you complaining about, you have no idea of what hurt is."
The Spirit of Life gives us choices about whether to go through life feeling hurt or feeling blessed. There are times of course when we can feel both. The answer to the question of why do these hurts happen to me is that the more we love, the more attached we become, the more we expect, the more we will be hurt. God does not do this to us, we do it, for the most part, to ourselves. We have a responsibility to develop our awareness, our compassion, our skills so that hurtful occurances are minimized. A good theology would teach us that we have a responsibility for self care and a responsibility for others. Let's stop blaming God.
This is article #5 in a series on David G. Markham's theology.