Saturday, July 17, 2010

Charity Thinketh No Evil: Harming Not One's Self

In my first New Year's Resolution post this month, I discussed the idea that evil is seen properly more as action in relation to others than in a vacuum - that, in and of itself, it is not merely an intellectual idea. This weekend, I want to describe something else that has struck me as I have contemplated this idea - first by quoting a very commonly referenced passage in the Book of Mormon, then by focusing again on the idea of "evil" being defined best as that which harms or would cause harm if acted upon - but in a different way.

2 Nephi 2:11 says:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.

In my own words, the rest of this verse goes on to talk about how no ideal can exist in a vacuum - that something can be CREATED only in combination with its opposite - that it exists originally only as a reflection of that which it opposes.

2 Nephi 2:12 then says something incredibly profound and important about the theoretical condition of the lack of opposition - something that gets overlooked too often when opposition in discussed. It says:

Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.

To what "purpose in the end of its creation" might this verse refer - a purpose that would have become "a thing of naught" if opposition did not exist?

Verse 13 expands on this theme, then says:

And if these things are not, there is no God.

This, then, is the ultimate "end of its creation" - the ultimate purpose that would be frustrated by a lack of opposition and cause the entire creation to be a thing of naught (of no worth or value) - ensuring that there can be God.

Verses 14 & 16 take this idea (that the entire end and purpose of creation is to provide a way for God to exist as God) and bring mortals into the picture in a way that describes perfectly our status as His children. It says that he created:

both things to act and things to be acted upon . . . Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.

All of this points to the idea that we, as children of God, have been created to act "for ourselves" independently - rather than merely as objects to be acted upon.

In Last week's New Year's Resolution post, I discussed the difference between pornography and nudity as they relate to thinking no evil (inflicting no harm) - but this week I want to expand that idea to its full conclusion and include thoughts that harm one's self (only or along with others).

As I have considered what has come to me this week, I have realized that much of what I deem to be indefensible pornography not only represents actions that, if acted upon, would harm others, but that it also harms those who participate in its creation in a very real and critical way. I mentioned last week that the worst harm done by pornography might be the objectification it encourages of those who are the "receivers" of the actions portrayed, but I did not explore the objectification of those who are the "givers" or "perpetrators" of those actions. Even if they play the part of those who act, in reality they are used as objects every bit as much as those they use in what is created - almost always as commercial goods to be exploited for financial profit, but also as images upon which others act. That objectification is in direct opposition to the great plan of creating children to act like their parents - to take responsibility for acting in such a way that opposition is identified, extremes are separated, and new creatures are created who are capable of acting perfectly (wholely, completely and in a fully developed manner) on their own.

This post is not about pornography - which is nothing more than one example of something that frustrates the purpose of creation by removing our ability to act independently as free agents. It is about understanding that the thoughts we allow to carve out a place in our minds are "evil" not only if they lead to the harm of others but also if they lead to the harm of ourselves - if they increase our dependence on forces that act upon (and eventually control) us and decrease our ability to act of our own will and according to the dictates of our own conscience - if they decrease our ability to change our original nature ("repent").

There are myriad applications of that principle - that "fresh view of repentance", and I will try to highlight a few in my post next week. I probably will focus most closely on how our actions must not restrict others' ability to experience this process of repentance, as that is what has come most forcefully to my mind as I have written this post.


Stephen said...

One important part of making restitution and amends in repentance is making amends to yourself for failing to love yourself and for self harm.

Papa D said...

Amen, Stephen.