The concept of gentleness seems archaic these days, does it not?
We all have witnessed or been on the receiving end of others’ destructive vitriol, and that vitriol seems to multiply with each passing day.
Even the kindest and most loving individuals among us are not exempt from these anger- and violence- laced diatribes, whether they see or hear them in person, on the news or on social media.
Sadly, this malice is everywhere, even among those who consider themselves spiritual or religious, as they seek to push their own misguided images of a deity as hateful and angry as they are onto others.
Maybe this current darkness we are experiencing can be chalked up to the human condition.
Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, introduced the concept of the “collective consciousness” in 1893. Collective consciousness refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society. It informs our sense of belonging and identity, and our behavior.
From a more spiritually grounded perspective, imagine a pebble tossed in a pond. The emerging circular ripples reach out and effect all with whom they come in contact, even those not directly connected to the pebble itself.
Everything we do — our words, our actions, even our thoughts — have consequences, not just on us, but on the world around us.
That is partially what it means when spiritual teachers say we are all One, or that we are part of an interconnected web of being.
Each part effects the whole.
“Sin” is not a popular word these days, and perhaps rightly so. The word hearkens back with negative connotations to old ways of religious thought, which emphasized how humans were a pathetic lot, destined for destruction because of their innate corruption.
Those who grew up with this kind of black-and-white theology sometimes have difficulty embracing the idea of an all-merciful, all-loving God. Many even fall into scrupulosity — thinking every little thing they do, think or say is sinful, when it is not.
I’m not saying the concept of sin is wrong. Because, in fact, those behaviors that are considered “sinful,” – those behaviors that contradict the Law of Love — are considered that way, not just for the effect they have on the individual doing them, but also for the effect they have on the rest of the world around them.
Until an individual experiences for oneself that profound Love of one’s being, simply because one exists, that individual will continue to live according to its lesser “sinful” nature.
Often it takes hitting rock bottom in one’s life, whether it is through chronic illness, the loss of a job or relationship, or the death of a loved one to open oneself up to be humbled enough to receive that transformative experience of Divine Love.
We don’t receive that Divine Love because we’ve done anything to merit it. We receive that Divine Love because that is what “God” is.
God is love.
And because love is God’s substance, God cannot act in any way counter to the Law of Love, which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Once one has experienced the profoundly transformative effects of the Love of God for oneself, it is hard to forget.
It changes one from the inside out. Irrevocably.
That experience of Divine Love is not given to us just for us to be consoled, it is given to us so that we might begin to act in the same way in our own lives, and with those whom we come into contact, according to the Law of Love.
Even should one forget that experience of Divine Love, however, and return to former ways of living, it is always retrievable, because it forever dwells in one’s heart.
The darkness of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth – which are commonly known as the seven deadly sins, the roots of all “sinful” behavior – can and sometimes do cloud the memory of that experience of Divine Love.
But that Love is always there, waiting to be found, dusted off, and put into action, through the initiative and the power of the holy Spirit.
“Nothing is impossible with God.”
These are the words we hear in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary of Nazareth, asking her to consent to carry the Christ child, through the power of the holy Spirit.
The holy Spirit changes history and the holy Spirit transforms individual people as well.
The power of the holy Spirit is limitless.
It is not beyond the Spirit’s ability to transform our society and our world.
Let us acknowledge that we as individuals, and we as a society, have hit bottom, humble ourselves and receive the transformative power of that Love.
Ask the holy Spirit to fill you, each other, the nation and the world with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
· SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at email@example.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.