Morality is an attempt at explaining bad behavior without looking any further than the perpetrator. In any war, everyone thinks they’re the good guys. Terrorists think they’re fighting evil. “Oh, but they’re wrong! They think they’re good, but they’re mistaken.” That’s probably what they say about you, too. If there’s no good and evil, why do people steal and hurt others? Because they’re dumb. They just don’t know any smarter and more rewarding ways to live. It is not about good and evil but smart and dumb.
What they lack is wisdom. Insight. They just don’t know how to cultivate peace in their lives. So they grasp at things that provide fleeting scraps of fulfillment: money, power, gratification. They don’t know where else to look. But of course it’s never enough, and so desperation mounts. They begin to feel an even stronger draw towards gratification and security, mistaking them for some kind of salvation, and soon they’re stepping over others, or worse to acquire these things. Evil is simply unenlightened.
A common argument is that without morals, we wouldn’t know how to behave. We’d become greedy, cruel and petty, slaves of every selfish impulse we have. The truth is you can be smart enough to see the benefits in being good to others, and the drawbacks of being mean. There are natural incentives built into both love-based and fear-based courses of action. It is clear that this is exactly what religions are trying to teach: that there are smart ways to live, and dumb ways to live. Enlightenment is smart.
If you try to make your way through life by stealing, hating and killing, you will suffer. And it doesn’t take a vengeful deity to dole out that punishment. You do it yourself! By approaching life with disdain and greed, you create suffering in your own life. You create guilt. You create resentment in others. You create enemies or jail sentences or self-loathing in your life. Wisdom enables you to solve problems and to create as little as possible. Enlightened living is not external obedience but internal congruence.
Acting from love and acceptance, on the other hand, provides abundant natural rewards. More friends, a higher quality of consciousness, inner peace, well-managed finances, a pleasant worldview, a happy family, self-acceptance, and more. It is these acts that create a high quality of life for a person. True selfishness is when you act from a place that truly benefits yourself. A person is not selfish enough when the hurt they cause others harms themselves. True selfishness and intelligence are together.
No matter how much a so called bad person loves his family, he never learned smarter ways to play the game of life. He may be educated about how to deal with life by his gangster father and his bitter, broken mother. He keeps coming back to the methods he’s been taught: violence and force. And that approach creates all kinds of hell for him and for those around him: broken families, enemies, legal trouble, guilt and death. Therefore becoming smarter is more important that trying to be good to live well.
Everybody is subject to the forces of selfishness, anger, resentment and hate. Everyone has those feelings, but some of us know better ways to deal with them than others. You can think of people in your lives that are very short-fused and reactive, and notice that their lives are far less enjoyable in general than the people in your life who are calmer and kinder. The difference is not morals, it’s skill and wisdom. To grow as conscious beings is to develop our skills and expand our wisdom to live happily.
The gulf between those of low skill level and those of higher skill level widens throughout their lives. As the years roll on, wise and skillful people create more and more joy in their lives, and troubled, unskillful people create more and more suffering. There is often such a stark contrast between two people, that it almost appears as if they are utterly different in nature. In this case, people seem to take one of two distinct paths, but the direction they are headed is a function of their wisdom rather than their worth.
People who do good don’t do it because they possess some exclusive ‘moral compass’, or because they learned to in Sunday school, they do good because it directly benefits them. They are simply wiser than those who steal and hate their way through life. Treating others with compassion invariably results in less suffering for yourself. Those who spend their lives mistreating others are never pleased with their lives. Some people wake up to it at some point in their lives, others miss it altogether.
To do something because “it is right” is at best just parroting what your parents and your culture have taught you. The benefit of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is an intuitive understanding that cannot really be taught; it must be discovered. This is not a prescription for excusing hurtful or destructive behavior, just a way of explaining it. There are no magical forces, just varying degrees of wisdom. Therefore the more wisdom you acquire through conscious learning, the better you’ll live.
It is very difficult not to react judgmentally when we see or hear about someone committing a crime or behaving cruelly. But you have to remember, they are doing it because on some level, they’re just not very smart. It could be an incident of mindlessness, such as when someone takes an insult the wrong way and gets violent. Or it could be just another upsetting incident in a very counterproductive lifestyle, born of a tragic lack of wise influences. To remain connected to wisdom is to live and prosper.
Owner and Founder At The Goddess Bibles A Memoir By Laura Zukerman
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