There’s nothing quite like failing yourself to make you realize your own humanity. Now, before anyone gets the idea that realizing your humanity is a positive, uplifting experience, let me explain that I believe all humans are essentially bad.
What? Whatwhat? Bad? Butbutbut… what about love, and happiness, and charity, and goodwill? Surely I don’t actually believe that ALL humans are evil? What about people like Ghandi, or Mother Theresa? How do I explain people giving to the Salvation Army, or the innocence in a child’s eyes, or the way some people are willing to lay down their lives for one another?
How do I explain that? Well, let me tell you. It’s simple, really. The reason that those instances come to mind, the reason that Ghandi and Mother Theresa are so lauded, is because they’re not NORMAL. Humans, when left to their own devices, are essentially selfish little money-hoarders, whose main concern is their own life. It’s true— no matter how hard you try to love, to open your heart to others, to try and be philanthropic… it’s just so much easier to focus on the immortal “ME”. When someone cuts me off on the freeway, my initial reaction is not to gently worry about their safety, or to offer up a prayer that the Lord will help them get to their location in a timely manner (after all, it must be important, because they’re in a hurry!). Nope. My initial reaction is one of selfish anger. That’s MY space they just cut into. They just forced ME to slam on MY brakes, and give up MY bit of freeway to them. Who do they think they are? Now, if I’m having a good week, and I’m actually trying to live like a Christian should, I’m usually able to quell this surge of frustration/anger. Nevertheless, it’s still my first response. Even if you were to argue that my anger is based on fear…well, why am I afraid? It’s because they have endangered MY life. I may be able to overcome this reaction, but the truth of it is that my initial anger is because I’m angry/scared that they’ll take away MY life. In that quick moment of reaction, I couldn’t give a hoot about their life or their problems. Given enough time I can muster up some concern for their welfare. But my immediate reaction? It’s not very nice.
I don’t think many people would argue against me on anything I just said, but they might argue against me for what I’m about to say.
Babies are inherently evil.
Yes, yes, I hear your moral outrage. Not babies! Not those cute, little Gerber-eyed babies! How can anything with such soft cheeks, and wide, innocent eyes be evil? What sort of messed-up individual am I to actually sit around and think that babies are evil? They can’t even tell right from wrong!
Aha. That is EXACTLY my point. Babies aren’t born knowing right from wrong. When they’re born, they’re basically just squishy little sacks of selfish needs. Feed ME. Change ME. Fix MY wrinkled blanket. It’s a good thing that humans are automatically programmed to think that babies are cute, because I doubt many of us would willingly submit to the demands of a baby otherwise. Think about it— have you ever tried reasoning with a baby? “You know, Junior, Mommy was up every forty minutes with you all last night because you couldn’t figure out how to burp, and it gave you an upset tummy. It’s now eight in the morning, and if Mommy doesn’t get some rest soon, she’s going to run through the neighborhood naked, screaming at the top of her lungs. What do you say, Junior? Can Mommy hold off on feeding you for two hours so she can take a nap?” Hah. We all know the answer to that one. No-way, Jose. When Junior gets hungry, Junior wants his bottle, and he wants it NOW. Junior couldn’t care less how Mommy feels.
Let’s fast-forward about a year or so. Junior is a young toddler, somewhere around two years old. His gummy smile is now tooth-filled grin, and he’s learning an average of forty new words a week. Finally! Mommy and Junior can have some direct communication. Up until this point, Mommy (I suppose I should say “and Daddy” to be politically correct… but… eh. Who cares about political correctness? I’m a girl. This story is going to be told from Mommy’s point of view.)
…Now, where was I? Oh, yes, that’s right. Mommy, up until this point, has been communicating with little Junior through her female intuition. She has to try and figure out what his different cries mean, what this little scrunched-up face means in comparison to that little scrunched-up face. Finally, at last, Junior can communicate his innermost feelings to her through the use of words. (We can all see where this is going, can’t we?)
“My food. I hungry. My toy. Give! Givegive! My toy! Up! Me up! Want up! Want up! Waaaa–aaaa–aaant uuuuuuuuppppppp”… Okay, let’s leave that little scene of domestic bliss, with Junior stamping his little feet, face red with the exertions of his screams. Junior, apparently, is still the self-centered little being he always was. Nobody had to teach him how to look out for Numbero Uno. He was born knowing it. Think about it: everyone is concerned with teaching their kids how to share, right? When’s the last time you saw a frustrated parent trying to teach their child how to be selfish? “Now, Little Susie, you need to learn to not share all of your toys. Sometimes you just need to say no to the other children. No, no, Little Susie, Daddy doesn’t need your help carrying the groceries in. The fact that you straightened up the living room so Daddy would be in a good mood is good enough. You’re such a sweet five year old.”
Yeah, right. It’ll never happen. Little Susie, at least that version of little Susie, just doesn’t exist. Of course, that’s not to say that Little Susie won’t grow up to have a doormat personality and end up behaving like that—some people are, inherently, over-givers. They give too much of themselves. I, usually, tend to be one of them. That’s for a different entry, though. Right now, we’re focusing on humanity’s evil nature. In fact, if I remember correctly, my point at the beginning was that there’s nothing quite like failing yourself to make you realize your own humanity.
Allow me to illustrate with a completely personal, and totally gossip-worthy example:
I am a Christian. I haven’t always been a Christian (nobody has), but I have taken my faith very seriously from an early age. Following the Bible’s teachings and trying to model my life after the life of Jesus Christ is what kept me sane through high school. Sure, it may have made me miss out on some of the more “fun” aspects (high school “fun” is a VERY debatable term), but emerging from those turbulent years with a relatively unscathed heart and body was mostly due to the fact that I never allowed myself to be in a situation where I would be tempted to do anything that was unwise. You know what? It’s a really good plan. It’s really hard to do stupid stuff you’ll later regret at three in the afternoon, on a public street. Unless you’re a very strange individual, it’s virtually impossible.
On the other hand, if you’re alone in your boyfriend’s house, nestled up next to him on the couch, and it’s eleven o’clock in the evening on a warm summer night, and there’s some Jack Johnson playing in the background….You know what? It’s a lot easier to be stupid. In fact, it’s virtually impossible NOT to be stupid.
For those of you who are REALLY interested in all the gory details, no, I didn’t lose my virginity that night. But you know what? I went a lot farther than I had ever planned on going before my wedding night, and frankly, that was almost worse. I think if I’d gone “all the way”, I at least could have reveled in my guilt, or maybe even blamed the boyfriend. As it was, I had nobody to blame but myself, and that’s a very soul-searching place to be. Up until that point in my life, I’d never even considered the fact that I could possibly be weak in such an important area. I mean, heck, I was ME. Becky. The godly girl of the youth group. I was the spiritual leader of the young, and the shining beacon of hope for the elderly (“That Becky girl, she’s one smart cookie. She’s got it together. It‘s so nice to see a young person with such devotion to God.”)
That morning after I failed myself, that was a very pensive morning. It wasn’t that I’d failed God, although it really should have been, and it wasn’t that I’d failed my parents or my family, or anything like that. It was that I’d failed myself, and I hadn’t even dreamed that such a thing was possible. It’s a rough thing to look yourself in the eyes and realize that you’re just as human as everyone else, no matter how much you’ve tried to avoid it. It’s tough, when reality rips the rug out from underneath you— there really is nobody on this earth you can fully put all your faith and trust into, not even yourself. It’s a gut-wrenching realization to come to, but it’s also a freeing one. Because until you realize how low you can actually go (and trust me, this is just one small example… I’ve done one or two things that I’m still trying to forgive myself over), you don’t actually realize how great God actually is. I think up until that point, I’d actually just taken it at face value that God loved me enough to send down his Son to die on the cross from my sins. It sounds a little childish to put it so plainly like that, but that’s essentially what happened. And I think that, right up until that moment, I’d actually just figured that OF COURSE God would do that. I mean, it’s ME we’re talking about, right? It’s MY life that’s being saved, and naturally, I have a lot to offer God. Why wouldn’t he want ME? Until that moment, I don’t think I realized what true sin really feels like. I’d never really hated myself before. Now, I’m not talking about teenage angst-ridden self-doubt, or anything like that. I’m talking about the moment when you meet your own eyes in the mirror and see the person that you’ve always feared becoming staring right back at you. I’m not saying that what I did that night was all that bad. To someone else, maybe it wouldn’t be anything at all. But God knows where our strengths and weaknesses are, and if you’d asked me in high school what area I would be least likely to fail in…well, screwing around with someone before marriage would be at the top of the list.
But you know what? I’m glad I did it. Well, let me rephrase that. I’m not glad that I did it, per se, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn what I did. I’d sat there for years on Sundays and Wednesday, singing those same words with everyone else….
White as snow, white as snow,
Though my sins were as scarlet
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
I could go on and on. There’s all sorts of songs that talk about the way it feels to be forgiven, but until you’ve actually been there, I don’t think you can really understand.
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