Another big question…
DOES GOD APPRECIATE US
FOR SUFFERING IN SILENCE?
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am excited to be able to use this space on the Internet as a place in which we can join together to ignite a worldwide exploration of some of the most revolutionary theological ideas to come along in a long time.
The ideas I intend to use this space for in the immediate future are the ideas found in GOD’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD: You’ve Got Me All Wrong. I believe this book (published by Rainbow Ridge Books) places before our species some of the most important “What if” questions that could be contemplated by contemporary society.
The questions are important because they invite us to ponder some of the most self-damaging ideas about God ever embraced by our species. For example, the statement that…God honors self-sacrifice, long-suffering (preferably in silence), and martyrdom.
There is an idea about God, shared by many, many people in the world, that God is pleased when human beings make a personal sacrifice—and that the bigger the sacrifice, the more pleased God is.
God’s pleasure, we are told, comes from knowing that we are “putting others first,” even in the face of great personal emotional, physical, or financial loss.
In addition, God is said to reward the long-suffering— particularly when we suffer in silence. Complaining about some circumstance or condition besmirches and lessens the value that has been gained through the suffering itself. So to gain optimal value in heaven, keep your suffering to yourself. That’s been the basic message.
When I was a child, the nuns in our parochial school told us, if we fell and got hurt, to “offer it up to God.”
Martyrdom in any form was, we were taught, the highest form of suffering, for which we were accorded a special place in heaven. And martyrdom for God was the highest of the highest, garnering the greatest reward: sainthood.
I am not the only person to have gotten these messages. They have lived long, primarily (but not exclusively) in the Christian tradition. Now comes The Great What If . . .
What if God does not offer a special reward in heaven for any particular behavior—and, in fact, wants us to know that self-sacrifice and suffering do not have to be part of the human experience?
Would it make a difference? Does it matter? In the overall scheme of things, would it have any significant impact in our planetary experience?
Yes, it surely would. Billions of people across the globe would stop seeing self-sacrifice and long-suffering as qualifications for the highest honors in heaven.
This shift in understanding would eliminate an enormous amount of human sadness and loss produced by self-induced behaviors generated by people who think that they are pleas- ing God by displeasing themselves.
In addition, invalidating “martyrdom for God” as “automatic passage” into heaven would mean that ending one’s life in order to kill scores of innocent people would lose its spiritual credentials—making it impossible for the trainers of terrorists to promise young male suicide bombers that they will be rewarded with everlasting joy and twenty-two black-eyed virgins in paradise if they will just go out and blow themselves up in public places.
The biggest change that would occur if humans were certain that self-sacrifice, long-suffering, and martyrdom not only brought no special reward from God, but that God says that none of this even needs to be part of the human experience, is that people would begin to ask, “Why, then, is it so normal?”
The answer to that question is so huge that, if it were shared and lived widely, it would transform life for our species forever.
God has been telling us from the very beginning, and it is becoming more clear to us every day, that humanity’s Ancient Cultural Story about God according higher honors to the soul for self-sacrifice, long-suffering, and martyrdom is plainly and simply inaccurate.
It is okay now to remove this ancient teaching from our current story, and to stop telling this to ourselves and to our children.
Self-sacrifice is never necessary, suffering need not be a common part of human life, and martyrdom “for God” does not earn anyone a special place or the highest honors in paradise.
What is called “self-sacrifice” is the result of an assessment by a human being that something they are choosing to do is producing loss or self-injury in some way.
What is called “suffering” is the direct result of an assessment by a human being that something they are experiencing they should not be experiencing.
What is called “martyrdom for God” is the result of an assessment by a human being that something they are doing that is producing enormous self-injury (perhaps even death) pleases God because of this, and will therefore generate rewards in heaven proportionate to, and in recompense for, the injury experienced on the earth.
All of these assessments are inaccurate.
Looking at these concepts one by one, we see that it may be perfectly normal within our present human understanding to think that when one is doing something for another at great inconvenience, and especially at great emotional, physical, or financial loss, one is “sacrificing the self for another.” Yet such a mental holding is both inaccurate and self-serving.
Yes, rather than self-sacrificing, it is self-serving.
The truth is that no one does anything they don’t want to do. It sometimes serves us, however, to do exactly what we want to do, and then to tell ourselves (and others) that we “had no choice,” or that we did it “at great personal sacrifice.” In this way, we can feel self-satisfied and victimized at the same time.
Everything that human beings do willfully they do at their own choice, of their own volition. It is true that some people feel that certain things have to be done, or that there really is no choice when one is under duress—and within the context of humanity’s extremely limited comprehension, such a view might be understandable. But in reality, even “duress” is just a fancy word meaning “a situation in which I am confronted with a condition I do not consciously desire, or an outcome that—for my own good reasons— I seek to avoid.”
Yet when you consciously sidestep a condition you do not desire, you are serving yourself. And if you seek to avoid something for your own good reasons, then when you avoid it you are once again clearly serving yourself. This does not mean that your reasons are not good, it merely means that the goodness of your reasons does not make them less self-serving. Indeed, just the opposite is true.
(The better is your reason for doing or not doing something, the more self-serving it is—obviously.)
Yet we have been trained to think that anything that is self-serving is “bad,” and so we would much rather say that we “had no choice” than to say that we indeed had a choice, and took the option that we chose because it felt best to us—and thus, served us.
Even the decision to do something for another at great personal inconvenience or loss falls into that category, or you can be assured that it wouldn’t be done. There is some reason that a person makes the decision to do something extraordinary for another, even at their own expense or risk.
Perhaps the reason is that it makes them feel good. Perhaps the reason is that it brings them a direct experience of the kind of person they see themselves being, or wish to be. Perhaps the reason is that it allows them to feel true to a life principle they’ve committed to live by, or to an obligation they genuinely feel, or to a promise they have made.
All of these reasons, and many more that one could come up with, serve the ultimate interest of the self. And there is nothing wrong with this. What is not beneficial is serving the self, then telling oneself (and others) that one is not doing so.
We see, then, that true self-sacrifice is not possible, but faux self-sacrifice is, within the limited framework of most human understanding. Yet our larger awareness—the awareness of the Soul—tells us exactly why we do everything . . . and the reason always serves the agenda of the doer, thus is always self-serving. Further, it ought to be. It is intended to be. For the purpose of life itself is to allow us to “show up” in every moment as the grandest version of the greatest vision ever we held about Who We Are.
When we become clear about this we eliminate the possibility of harboring anger or resentment toward anyone else regarding anything we have ever done for them, may now be doing, or may think that we “have to do.”
We can no longer feel victimized by another, nor even by our own choices, but are invited to claim our place as the powerful sentient being that we are, clearly seeing all the options and outcomes before us in any given moment, and clearly choosing the ones that we see serving us in the best way.
What we may be missing here—an insight that would turn everything around for us if we saw it clearly—is that all self-service is service to the whole. It may take a deeper level of thinking for all members of a species to “get” this, but all members of all species eventually do. Ultimately, at a certain point in the evolutionary development of a species, this becomes crystal clear:
All self-service is service to the whole.
There are multiple reasons this is true, as will become apparent before this narrative is concluded. The lens of humanity’s understanding is clouded, at best, and totally obscured in our worst moments, due to the extraordinarily young age of our species. Our immaturity is revealed and demonstrated when, upon encountering severe physical or emotional pain, we feel that “this should not be happening,” and that its occurrence is somehow a “violation” of the human contract. A reversal of this single assessment can eliminate “suffering” from the human experience.
While such a change of mind does not erase the pain, it transmutes it, turning it into something that can be encountered with a higher degree of even peaceful acceptance, and certainly with a great deal less—if any—objection or opposition.
It is objection or opposition that creates the brittle rigidity that produces suffering—and prolongs it. For it is as Conversations with God tells us: What you resist, persists, and what you look at, disappears. That is, it ceases to have its illusory form.
A classic example of this can be a woman in childbirth. She is in pain, but if she relinquishes any opposition to it, she can reduce—and often completely eliminate—”suffering.” She can even, by this device, reduce the pain itself.
There are those who understand this very well, and who see pain as a natural part of every birthing process. Not just the birthing of a baby, but even the emerging of a new and greater aspect of the Self.
In children we often call these experiences “growing pains.” They are precisely the same in adults.
Fair enough, some may concede, but must these “growing pains” continue throughout one’s entire life? Is there to be no relief, ever, from this ongoing and ever-visited experience? Is the human journey to be an endless rush through tiny valleys of happiness to the next mountain of physical or emotional pain?
No. It does not need to be this way. Tiny valleys of happiness can turn into expansive plains of joy. The scales of life need not be heavily tipped toward emotional or physical discomfort—and even if certain physical pain is chronic, the abandonment or prohibition of joy is not a required accompaniment to that condition.
Many people who experience chronic physical pain have nevertheless found joy and happiness to be the prevalent circumstance of their life. Persons encountering ongoing emotional pain have likewise discovered that there are effective ways to ameliorate that condition and that they need not automatically forfeit delight, pleasure, and merriment in their lives.
It is quite amazing to observe the degree to which a non-combative, non-oppositional attitude toward pain can begin to immunize a person to the worst ravages of it. A person’s subjective, or inner, decision can and does affect a person’s objective, or outer, experience. There is not a psychologist in the world who would disagree with that.
Metaphysics goes one step further. It says that a person’s interior holding of an event can actually change the event itself. In other words, a positive attitude about any negative occurrence can actually transmogrify the occurrence itself—even as it is occurring.
How is this possible?
It is possible because everything in life is energy. And energy affects energy. It is a phenomenon that impacts upon itself. Science observes this through quantum physics, which posits that nothing that is observed in unaffected by the observer. This is pure science, not hocus-pocus.
So let’s highlight this intriguing statement once again here, so that you can get the full impact of it: A person’s subjective, or inner, decision can and does affect a person’s objective, or outer, experience.
It is within this context that the statement is made that long-suffering need not be part of the human condition. Not only does God not specifically reward it, God promises that it is not even necessary.
As well, it should be made clear that affecting one’s own happiness in an irreversible way—to say nothing of ending one’s life—through an act that is labeled “martyrdom for God” is not something for which God offers a special reward. The act of taking the lives of others along with one’s own as the very point of such “martyrdom” likewise will not, and will never, be rewarded with special honors or special treatment in paradise.
Persons who imagine that by killing themselves in an act of terrorism that kills others they will earn a unique, distinct, and exclusive “payoff ” in the afterlife will find that no such unique payoff is waiting.
Unlike on the earth, everyone is treated exactly alike in heaven. No one is raised higher, nor placed lower, than anyone else, no matter what they have or have not done during their physical life, and the wonders of the afterlife are not merit awards that are earned.
To put this simply: heaven is not a meritocracy. The joys of the spiritual realm—as with the joys of the physical realm—are the gifts of life itself, joyously created and freely given to all by God.
The doctrine of a God who parcels out rewards in heaven based on the quality and the content of one’s “performance” on the earth reduces the whole of life’s magnificent process to the monotonous mechanics of a mundane meritocracy.
As well, such a dogma makes a muddle of the concept of reincarnation, for if one’s particular status in heaven is a “reward” for exemplary behavior on the earth, that status would have to be revised with each succeeding incarnation—raising the almost silly question: Does one’s “standing” go up or down based on the “achievements” or “failures” of one’s most recent physicalization? No.
Heaven is not a meritocracy.
It is time to let go of our notion of a God who admires, honors, and rewards self-sacrifice more than self-service, long-suffering more than lifelong joy, and martyrdom more than merry-making.
We have lived long enough with our childish concept of a God who has gone so far as to say that even music and dancing is “bad,” that sex without the intention of procreation is lustful and bestial, that glorious self-celebration is worth less than continuous self-denial, and that the foregoing of some of the grandest joys of our oh-so-short life on the earth is what earns us the grandest joys of everlasting life in paradise.
We have lived long enough with our childish idea of a God who lays down “rules” for human behavior that dictate what we may or may not eat, may or may not wear, may or may not say, and may or may not believe. These jejune and puerile theological constructions have nothing to do with Ultimate Reality.
Or, as one observer wryly put it: “No more Jonah and the Whale.”