A friend was reprimanded by a Catholic priest after confessing her “mortal sin”. It was such a grave one that shocked and angered the priest, who almost left her without finishing the confession, as if her sin was unforgivable. My friend felt embarrassed and rejected, but continued to listen to the priest’s harsh words without any reaction. I was shocked and saddened by her story. With all honesty, it was really disappointing to hear a priest, who had years of learning about God, forgot at that moment to embody God’s virtue of compassion and forgiveness. Confession is a sacred process of entrusting one’s innermost and deepest concerns to those who have the capacity to deeply understand and serve as a reminder of God’s presence. But such action from that priest demonstrated insensitivity and mishandling of someone whom he deemed “lost”.
I have nothing against priests, not even against my friend’s priest. I personally know a handful of them who amazingly live their vocation. But I opt to write my friend’s story to point out a perspective from which this particular priest was coming from. This is not particular about him nor his action, but more so on the concept that motivates people to commit such action or why such situation occurs. We have always seen and heard this from our parents, relatives, teachers, principals, politicians, government employees, bosses, pastors, doctors and whoever we consider as authority figures. They tell us a list of dos and donts and either persuade or coerce us to abide. We have seen these people who vehemently dictate their notions of what is right and wrong. We fear more of their presence, believing that they have a hold on our fate. They are images of absolute domain in our social, religious and legal landscapes. They uphold morality at all costs.
Morality can be determined by both written or unwritten set of rules that define what is right and what is wrong. It is often based on ancient laws and codes that have been passed down to us in many different forms. These are rules and manners on how to behave and treat other people. Almost all of our standard laws are based on the idea or concept of morality. With such gusto, religions declare that true morality must come from God and people must obey him. With sharp combination of precision and accuracy, legislators draft laws word for word to ensure that they have enough statements for a particular offense with corresponding punishments.
To rethink morality is to go back to its basic source: our organic capacity to Love.
The basic sense of morality is to recognize the other human being as an equal. Simply put, morality is the exercise of the Golden Rule. Do good to others and do no harm to them. Living out such tenet is a realization of not only moral but essential co-existence. Yet the emphasis on morality has overshadowed the Golden Rule. Morality becomes “be rewarded when you do good and be punished when you do harm”. It becomes a tool for judgment, comparison and superiority. Those who uphold morality condescendingly look down on those who deviate from it. Worse, they reject and castigate them as a consequence of their “immoral actions”. They continue to inflict fear and pain, thinking that these deviants will change or that they completely deserve such infliction. And it perpetuates a culture of favor and conditions, of people-pleasing and blind faith, since morality is often used as a concept of merits and rewards.
We have misunderstood morality. Unfortunately, this is our society’s comfortable basis of relationship. Because we fear what we do not know about others, we control them. Because we fear of others’ capacity, freedom and choice, we subdue them in the name of morality. Instead of serving humanity’s good and upholding justice, morality has been used by many so-called authorities to dictate others and make them obey to their whims and commands. We have used morality as a lens to see others as enemies, and we use morality itself as weapon against them. We have used morality to determine the most obedient and pamper them with attention they deserve. Using morality to categorize people into good and bad is a limitation to its original intention.
To rethink morality is to go back to its basic source: our organic capacity to Love. Our misuse and abuse of morality is not anymore valid to change the lives of others who have created harm against others, nor our old concept of morality would help us shape the conduct of our youth. We must bring people back to their inner truth: that by Loving each other is the only authentic basis of morality, no matter what religion or philosophy may tell us so. The very gauge of a moral life is one’s capacity to Love, to see others as part of them, within them, through them, as them. That every good or bad action directed to others is a reflection of the kind of others’ action that they may do towards us.
Learning this untold truth of morality brings us to a greater intention of doing others all the goodness and frees ourselves from doing anything against them. Eventually the necessity for telling others what is right or wrong will natural stop to cause more unwanted suffering and neglect. Morality becomes an indicator of our devoted attention, of helping others ease their suffering, of educating them of their Loving potentials. In doing so, our indifference to those who are “sinful” would not anymore push us to reject and demonize them, but compel us more to accept and Love them.