Someone told me today about a semi-retired teacher who felt guilt and then a relief of guilt after a fifth grade student cut herself with a razor blade and then (and I am not sure of all the details) proceeded to cut about ten other fifth Grade girls in her class. As I understand it, there was a significant aspect of intimidation and bullying and that is how ten girls got cut before this came to the attention of any adults. (Then paramedics and police came and “restored order”).
This happened Thursday at a public school in rural Arizona. The person telling me about this was not the teacher, but was in the classroom the whole time (as a sign language interpreter for two deaf students in the classroom). Also, the person telling me about this was recalling soothing the teacher (which produced a relaxing of tension, then weeping and what I understood to be a relief of a sense of guilt).
So, that story reminded me of other recent comments (which were also made to me by the interpreter in the classroom) about “the difficulty people may have with being alone with their own thoughts.” Below, I explore how I connect the two issues….
In our youths, we may be pressured socially to present certain emotions but not others. In other words, we are pressured in to shame, which is not innate.
That learning of shame is “the original sin.” It is not innate or personal, but learned and social. Infants certainly do not demonstrate a pre-occupation or obsession about social validation, right?
However, it is adaptive to learn shame. A common irony is that many people relate to shame as if shame itself is somehow shameful. First, while the experience of shame is personal or subjective, the process of shaming is inherently social, not innate. It can be “internalized,” but it is fundamentally just social pressure (as in antagonism or oppression).
The internalized “social narrative” is a habit of self invalidation or self-pressuring or chronic tension. It can restrict the motions of the tongue and face and throat and shoulders.
most people have not accessed “salvation” (the relaxing of the internalized paranoia or social anxiety) and are what we could call “addicted” to distractions, especially social reassurance and validation. So, they gather in to groups of people with similar ideas to isolate themselves from self-awareness.
there is no coping mechanism which is fundamentally better or worse than any other. Gathering in to groups to habitually distract each other can be adaptive!
“Grace” refers to a natural potential that is difficult to precisely predict. With faith and patience, then by “grace” there can be a gradual or even sudden releasing or relaxing of internalized narratives that “there are certain ways that (we in this group all agree to suppose that) people should be or should not be.” When there is a rigid tension about “how people should be,” that tension constricts the body, restricting the emergence of emotional clarity, and limits one’s own perception of one’s self. That perceptual filtering relates to preserving a persona or self-image that one is virtually always “how all people fundamentally should be” and is virtually never “how all people fundamentally should not be.”
the person “possessed” by the “demon” of original sin (self-invalidation) will speak of themselves as operating in conformity with “how people fundamentally should be.” However, there is an innate awareness that there are frightened pretenses about conforming to the social ideals. That innate awareness can lead to unexpected emergence of guilt and shame.
most people (or very many) are in constant inner conflict or torment, but have adapted coping mechanisms or habits to numb themselves to their own incongruence with their stated ideals of “how all people should or should not be.” So, a very common pattern is that when someone is jealous of another, then are ashamed of their admiration for the results of another person. So, they experience resentment and contempt and then condemn the one toward whom they are jealous.
“They should not have obtained those results through those methods because those methods are fundamentally wrong.” That is a common hysteria.
“That result should not be that result.” They are denying the validity of some reality. They are invalidating or denying some reality… And typically with tremendous social anxiety or distress (even disgust).
They have positioned themselves in opposition to certain aspects of reality. They have internalized the habit of hysterically shaming certain parts of reality (as distinct from careful, attentive shaming or humbling of specific people of interest to someone).
That is the end of my original post. Then, I tagged the only person on my private group that regularly gives sermons at Christian churches. He responded, then I did.
His comments are hard to read (in part because he did not divide it in to paragraphs). However, my replies to him probably will have enough references to his comments that if you just read what I wrote, you will also get exposed to the contrast between the two different patterns presented by myself and him.
John Villegas-Grubbs Your writing is not easily understood for me, at a first pass. I typically need to read it more than once. But I do see that you are addressing biblical concepts in a non-biblical way, so I am at a little bit of a loss to know how to continue the discourse. Original sin, in the biblical sense, refers to an aspect of human nature that seeks to aggrandize the self. All “sin” proceeds from it, and as scripture puts it, Pride is the source of all sin. This is because the first tenant of the relationship God offered to human beings (again speaking from the scriptural basis) is – I am God and you are not. Original sin, as it were, was the human refusal to consent. Shame is of purely human construct. God never designed (according to scripture) for there to be a place in the relationship between Himself and us for shame. It is the beginning of the thread of His love that has its origins in Genesis, and is fully fledged on the cross. Shame is the human thesis that acting out (out of the boundaries set by community) equals worthlessness. It becomes seriously toxic when we individually agree. None of this was God’s design, according to scripture. Grace, simply put, is undeserved kindness. The Christian thesis that salvation is grace is rooted in the belief that we could not expunge ourselves of our human nature (self-aggrandizement) because it is in our nature. We failed at the covenant of justice (the old testament). It was all a set up. It’s all one story. Scripture tells us that we could not follow the 300 some odd laws of Moses. The laws were set in place not so that we would be perfect, but so that we would understand our imperfection (Romans 7). We simply do not deserve relationship with God. So… Act Two: Jesus goes to the cross. It satisfies the Justice nature of God (give me your first born), and displays His love at the same time. It is like this: (and this is consistent with the parables Jesus preached), when we are hurt by someone we love, we often think that maybe if they knew how much we love them, they wouldn’t hurt us. We get that from God. It is part of the image of Him, in which we are made. He was hurt by us. Some argue with me that that is not scriptural but it is “…how I have longed to gather you like a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23: 37). Those are words spoken by a God whose heart has been broken. The act of salvation is an act of responding to His final act to prove His love for us. Jesus. It then opens the door for a relationship with Him that is real, alive, dynamic, and one pretty wild journey. You cannot convince a Christian not to be a Christian, because it is knowledge of a different sort. That’s why the early believers went calmly to their deaths, and do so today. Jesus never said he was a wise man, or a teacher (the others called Him that). He said He was the Messiah. The Samaritan woman at the well said – when the messiah comes he will explain it to us, and Jesus answered, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4: 26) It doesn’t get any clearer than that. All this to say that there is a secular treatment for these concepts, but they are scriptural in their origin.
J R Fibonacci Hunn I will comment as I go, John. The phrase you presented [in regard to the “original sin”] is “to aggrandize the self,” and that is consistent with my commentary. We may come to worship a specific self-image hysterically (in terror) and we may socially identify ourselves as “only being certain ways that we should be” (but never other ways that we may condemn or vilify).
In small children, this can be “I am NOT a baby anymore. I am a big boy!” If a 3 year old says that with the “innocence” of glee, that is of no great interest to me. However, when the distressed “self-glorification” extends in to contempt for others (aggressively pointing out how they are how they should not be, which is “being a baby”), that is more notable as a “symptom” of being on the look out for justifications for cultivating “ill will.”
There may already be an underlying grief which is suppressed (like not crying in public because only babies do that and I am THREE so I am NOT a BABY!). Once the energy of the frightened grief is suppressed, then it can explode in grievances and resentment and contempt and personal ill will.
J R Fibonacci Hunn I do not agree with the word pride as a target of caution. Arrogance is the issue, which is a type of fear.
Pride is a type of gratitude, like when my 6 year old grand daughter rides a bicycle without training wheels, I feel a surge of grateful pride. Or, when a one year old child walks across a room without holding on to anything, they can experience a kind of delight that we can call “pride.”
The “demonization” of pride is one of the most remarkable errors of the the common forms of popular Christianity which some people refer to as “spiritually backwards.” Rather than warn against contempt and condemnation, so many people who call themselves Christians take lessons about condemnation and then use those passages to condemn others for the “crime” of… condemning others.
That is hysterical hypocrisy. That is completely lacking in spiritual discernment.
J R Fibonacci Hunn John wrote: “Grace, simply put, is undeserved kindness. The Christian thesis that salvation is grace is rooted in the belief that we could not expunge ourselves of our human nature (self-aggrandizement) because it is in our nature.”
Grace can refer to the way that an organism moves (with tremendous physical coordination). Grace can mean “without any issue of personal merit,” so we might say that by grace some people have unique privileges and advantages.
J R Fibonacci Hunn Note that the origins of the words salvation, salve, saliva, salad, salute, whole, and holy are all identical. Instead of the common “broken spirit” of the common person, the one who has experienced a relaxing of learned habits of self-invalidation will no longer experience an internal conflict about always pretending to be “fundamentally better than most people.”
J R Fibonacci Hunn By grace, a person can experience a mature humility, which is salvation. They can easily discern between what is fundamental and what is just a linguistic “script” to glorify their ego.
“I am better than those babies over there because I definitely would not cry if I ever fell off of my bicycle. Hey, stop being such a baby! You are offending me by crying in my presence just because you fell down and hurt yourself. Don’t make me come over there and give you a reason to cry!”
The hysteria of vilification and contempt is an externalizing of internalized shame and self-invalidation. (First, there is an internalizing of shame, then an externalizing of the internalized shame through the activity of social vilifying.) If I am anywhere close to crying myself (and ashamed of that), then I could be extremely reactive about someone else crying “without a good reason.”
J R Fibonacci Hunn I (when I have been in that infantile mode) certainly do not mind if people cry without me knowing. It is not that I am concerned for them, like wanting to put ice on their wounds to dull the pain. I just respond to their crying as a threat. So, if they cry and I find out, then I may attack (verbally or otherwise).
“Stop being such a baby! How can you cry over such a small thing? Your older brother did not cry when he fell out of a TREE and are you seriously crying just from falling off a bike? Come on!”
Note in particular the right side of this image, referencing Mithras:
[Regarding the Easter story of a martyr who is publicly executed and then rises from the dead, which is apparently MUCH older than 2000 years…]
I would not argue with someone who insisted that “salvation did not exist until a specific moment in human history.” However, my lack of interest in arguing is not evidence of agreement.
Hundreds of people could all insist on one hundred different moments when salvation suddenly became possible for humans, who they might claim are “by nature fundamentally unworthy of salvation.” I might say “let them speak for themselves.”