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~ No Eye For An Eye ~
That is what happened under these controlled conditions wherein the
researcher could measure the amount of pressure each pair of volunteers
were inflicting on each other. Although these adults were trying their
best to follow the experiment's rules, they typically (and quickly)
returned the pressure force they perceived they felt to their partner
in an amount of forty percent more. The soft pressures quickly
escalated to moderate ones and then to painful ones, the point at which
the researcher had to stop the experiment.
Although each of the paired volunteers were convinced he or she was
returning the same pressure given, each also perceived that the other
was increasing their pressure infliction, so, naturally, he or she had
to respond accordingly. A controlled research milieu often validates
what we already know through life experiences. It is human nature to
feel we suffered more than we deserved or more than the pain we
contributed to a conflict, be the situation a family or marital
conflict, a personal relationship or national ones.
Naturally, our pain is far more touchable than the pain others received from us. There is nothing mystical or esoteric about this. It is basic neuropsychology. Since I am not you, I cannot feel your pain as you do, regardless of its origin. That's why as a therapist or lay person, I would never tell anyone, "I know how you feel." Two people can ski down the same slope at the same time and hit the same tree breaking the same leg and being transported to the same room in the same hospital. One still cannot tell the other, "I know how you feel." One of the injured can very well be taking the incident in stride and humor while the other in great despondency, worry and regret for ever skiing that day. It all depends on their perception of the event and their living situation. And that will even change the degree of physical pain each of them experience and the rate of their recovery.
We humans naturally feel our pain more than the pain of others. We
watch vivid broadcasts of the suffering around the world, lives and
homelands devastated by war, disease, hunger and natural disasters. We
feel badly and even painful empathy. But an hour later, or less, we are
back to work or chores or relaxing entertainment, consumed by our own
physical afflictions, burdens of personal worries and energy consuming
fears of the future. Intellectually, we tell ourselves to "count our
blessings" as we ponder the suffering of others. While this offers some
consolation, it doesn't run deep into our souls. A spiritual person is
not consoled by the realization that he or she is free while thousands
of his brothers and sisters are suffering in our nations' prisons or in
horrible refugee camps. A spiritual person's consolation is more
derived from being a blessing to those people rather than counting his
This is a spiritual protection against the escalation of violence.
Since we find self-righteousness and justification in perceiving that
only others are responsible for our pain, be they individuals or
nations, since all of us regard ourselves to be defenders of our ways
and homelands, since we cannot enter (or choose not to enter) into each
others' souls and minds, we will always hold up our own pain and sense
of self as justification for the escalation of harm and violence
against one another. Many may disagree with my suggestion of the
universal embracing of an illusion, that others are solely responsible
for our suffering and the concomitant position that our responses to
others are justifiable and even blessed by God, personally or globally.
Diplomacy is an illusion and war is a paper tiger. "An eye for an
eye" is also an illusionary aspiration. An eye lash is revenged with an
eye, an eye with two eyes, two eyes with the face, and the face with
the head. That's why Christ proclaimed, "You heard it said, 'An eye for
an eye,' but I tell you, whoever looks upon his neighbor with hatred
has committed murder."
Is there hope and an answer? The kingdom of God as exemplified by
the life of the Christ on earth does not follow the rules of engagement
we practice personally and globally. Exercising the rules of engagement
of the heavenly realm here on earth is an exercise in holy wisdom.
Concerning the future, as long as our children punch each other back
harder than the punches they took, and these children grow up to be our
corporate and world leaders, and they justify their responses to their
parents and caretakers as merited and justified, we should be prepared
for more of the same.
Some have been criticized for "refusing" to "serve" our
country, thinking the military is the only way to do it. Those who
children with the rules of engagement of the heavenly realm and the
spiritual traditions, and their teachers who espouse to do the same,
are serving our country and the people of all nations in nobility and
promise. They, along with our troops, deserve support and honorable
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
in the Christian Faith ~
Spiritual Resource Services © August 3, 2006