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The Lesson

April 27, 2010

I don’t think this is particularly profound or anything, yet I feel like this lesson is something that many people I know (even myself) struggle with. I think, though, that experience can show us, time and time again, that this lesson is true. You don’t need a revelation. You don’t need meditation. You don’t need an answer to a prayer. Although, I guess, if you learn the lesson through any of these, props to you.

Actually, I guess there are few “The Lessons”. I’m too lazy to make a Grand Unified Lesson. or a Lesson of Everything.

Forgive.

If you don’t forgive, you will be the one sputtering and festering in due time from your mania. Even if yours is a righteous cause (or you are convinced it is).

Be kind.

Fighting fire with fire sets the world ablaze. It doesn’t even make you feel better to snap back, or to snap in the first place, even though you’d think that’d be the case. On the other hand, if you REALLY want to show someone what’s what, being kind (the unintuitive answer…when the moment comes) will probably show them what’s what faster.

Even if yours is a righteous cause (or you are convinced it is).

I wouldn’t believe how many times I see other people so willing to plot and connive, to plan the destruction of others. How often they reason why that other guy has always been out to get us, and we’ve always been so polite, and how dare they treat us like this? So no more nice guy! We’ll fight back. And we’ll attack back! And we’ll be mean! And spiteful. And from the outside (maybe I know that the other guy isn’t a complete turbojerk. Or maybe I know that we don’t come off as perfect saints in one way or another), I try to reason that we must not Be Mean.

I would not believe how many times I fail to see myself so willing to plot and connive, to plan the destruction of others. How often I reason why that other guy has always been out to get me, and I’ve always been so polite, and how dare s/he treat me like this? So no more nice guy! I’ll fight back. And I’ll attack back! And I’ll be mean! And spiteful. And how many times do people try to show me the other side?

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7 Comments
  1. Be Kind and Forgive
    – these are two major values of mine too.
    Funny, few atheists write much about the irrational moral values they hold.

  2. It doesn’t take much to set me off sadly. Someone’s always out to get me. That’s what I say. Which probably isn’t true, and even if it is, if I’m out to try and get everyone else because I think they’re doing the same, well, it just makes things more complicated and unpleasant than they need to be. Profundity is overrated, I like The Lesson.

  3. Sabio,

    I’m interested in hearing more about your comment.

    “few atheists write much about the irrational moral values they hold”?

    So much of that is confusing. Firstly, what does the “irrational” part mean? Is it in a sense that “some values are rational, but these particular ones aren’t” or is it in the sense that “moral values are all irrational, but atheists rarely talk about it.” Why would it be irrational?

    I’m not necessarily making a case for rationality, but I wonder why you distinctly call it irrational.

    Next, what does the “moral” part mean? This is probably something of a whole different conversation. My impression from writing this was not how it is “moral” or whatever…but rather, how prudent it is. The *prudence* of it gets me back to the rational part, although I guess I’m not really prepared to flesh out further on that.

    I think we have a different response to so-called “immoral” reactions than we do to so-called “imprudent” reactions. I think the reaction to someone who fails to forgive is not one of moral outrage, quite simply.

    Loren,

    one thing I can’t help but counter “the lesson” with all the time is how much in the past people *have* been out to get me, or how much people do seem to be out to get me now. So, I guess that’s why it’s so easy to get into the same spirit back? Mutually assured destruction so far has been enough of a threat that we *haven’t* blown ourselves up.

    Yet, time and time again, experience shows me that EVEN IF SOMEONE IS OUT TO GET ME, trying to get back doesn’t seem to work.

  4. Chris permalink

    In my experience, I find that when I have unrealistic expectations of how another person should act or behave, then I get upset/angry/annoyed/etc. I try to convert my expectations into preferences. It’s not the end of the world if a preference isn’t met, and it is easier for me to forgive/be lenient/overlook faults and mistakes. Expectations are where I get in trouble because I cannot control whether they get met or not. They are completely dependent on another person’s actions. This will inevitably lead to negative emotions and grudges.

    I highly recommend nickpagan.com/blog/33/fundamental-desires and anything else on nickpagan.com.

  5. Chris,

    I like what you (and Nick, to a lesser extent) have said about unrealistic expectations. I could write about my experiences with unrealistic expectations and in trying to have less of them.

    Needless to say, expectation control is important to me. Because I can change *my* expectations a lot more effectively than I can change other people (about whom those expectations exist)

  6. Chris permalink

    Yes exactly… our expectations our within our circle of influence (7 Habits, Covey) and other people’s are not. Also, Emotions = Desire + Fulfillment. Expectations are rarely fulfilled, thus negative emotions usually occur (which can lead to grudges, etc).

    I get most of my self-help advice from nickpagan.com because it’s pragmatic, secular and occasionally based on evolutionary psychology (which is very fascinating).

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