Frankly, I was surprised to see an image of The Inside Out Project available on Google’s “free-to-use” images. Giving people visibility and validation–priceless.
Augustine and Karl Barth’s Life Turned Inward
I know I have friends here who have a strong faith relationship with God. What I am about to say does not contradict you or your beliefs about life. Concepts are just so word-based! Our relationship to word meanings are tenuous, at best. We can go round and round on the meaning of a single word.
Several days ago I wrote a post about paradoxes–how a statement that seems to say two opposite things actually may be true. Today, I am going to tackle the unthinkable: challenging a major tenet, that sin is a life turned inward.This concept was first coined by Augustine of Hippo and later expanded by Karl Barth.
I first encountered a contradiction to the life-turned inward approach in Patricia van’s book Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People who Try to Control You. In this book, she develops her definition of being beside yourself as a person who has not been allowed to develop a sense of themselves (self-esteem, self-worth, etc.). This happens primarily as a result of misinformed parenting techniques ranging from simple neglect to violent abuse. In doing so, she says that those with controlling issues have essentially been emptied of their core selves. In my mind, I began comparing that to the concept of losing your own soul. Dr. Jonice Webb’s groundbreaking book Running On Empty has been my game-changer. In this book, Dr. Webb compassionately repaints the losing of your soul (my extrapolation of being empty of self-worth) as never having been loved in the beginning of your life as you were intended.
The Paradox: Inward vs. Beside
For those who already have a well-established definition of sin and evil as a life turned inward, the twist on words sounds paradoxical: now we are thinking of evil as being beside oneself. (The term beside myself apparently originated in 1490 A.D. as being mad or having lost one’s mind.)
Truly, I think we are seeing two sides of the same coin, but I’m not certain that we actually understand what the coin is-yet.
Disney’s recent Pixar production of Inside-Out is an amazing visualization of what happens when a little person is not given permission to believe in the truth of their feelings. In this movie, Riley’s sadness after moving begins to take over, and no one is noticing. She is not validated or allowed to grieve. Only when Riley’s sadness is met, validated, and softened with compassion is she able to return to herself. With her newly-refilled hug-bucket of love for herself, she can be happy and can compassionately relate with others.
Definition of Evil = Uppity
You may want to check out this definition yourself, but you will need to go back farther than the beginnings of organized religions as we now know them. Having been raised with a solid religious structure of beliefs, I have been on a mission of deconstruction. (Read carefully–deconstruction, not destruction. I would add a winkey-smiley here.) I am conceptualizing: evil=uppity=sin=loss of self=losing your soul. And–I welcome your discussion. We’re talking about savings lives, after all. I’m positing that change in concepts at the word-level might be helpful–might even be essential-for a move in that direction to occur.
- Books of wisdom–aka holy books–can and are helpful guides, but they were all written by people, whose collective knowledge and understanding is continually evolving.
- Books of wisdom work (for me) if they are inclusive, not exclusive. (It has never made sense to me that a loving god would choose some people and not others.)
- The Bible of my youth was withheld from commoners until the 1500’s or so. (If anyone were to have been discovered in possession of such, it would have been burned or destroyed.)
- To keep peace and order, rules were needed. (It makes sense why politics and religion were intertwined–simply for survival of the communities.)
- When immigrant families moved to America, they found themselves rudderless–without their wise elders. Many, if not most, relied on their churches for support, community, and safety.
- Many people in my parents’ generation had no access to books of wisdom (actually, books of ANY kind, other than the Bible offered through their church).
- Many people in my parents’ generation had little more than an 8th grade education, and so could not have read other information, history, etc., even if it were to have been available.
- Churches and the religions they espouse have rules. All institutions have rules. They have members. That means that some people are not members. That means that some are in, and everyone else is out.
- If you are in, and others are out–and if you believe that those who are with you are right (remember–accepting the rules), everyone else seems wrong.
- Now, you are built by rules–not by your inner guidance.
- You now have NO inner guidance. Just outside rules and rulers. (Not sure about you, but outside control seems pretty scary to me–sounds like anxiety to me.)
- You now have no self-confidence.
- You now have no self worth.
- You now have no reason to live, other than obeying rules and getting rewarded by other’s praise of your rule-following.
- You are empty.
- You are beside yourself. You are mad. You have lost your mind. Maybe you have even lost your soul.
- Who moves in? The better you? The uppity you? The “right” or righteous you? Uh oh…the EVIL you?
Rewind: No uppity…no evil…just love. God = Love (I am simply experimenting with replacing God/Jesus with LOVE–a matter of concept)
- In the beginning, LOVE created the heavens and the earth.
- LOVE saves.
- Fear not, LOVE is with you.
- LOVE came to save us.
I just did a quick search in the book of Matthew for the times that Jesus used the word God. It is not often. I would like to leave you with this today, replacing God with LOVE:
Matthew 12:28 (NIV)
“If I drive out demons by the Spirit of LOVE, then the kingdom of LOVE has come upon you.”
(This sounds like a kingdom where I would like to live. How about you? 🙂