Religion in general, especially in its Christian manifestation, is frequently identified with a long list of things the faithful are against. Sadly, believers are often characterized in popular culture by the things we oppose.

As the dated doggerel verse usually, and I’m sure unfairly attributed to Baptists has it, Christians are:

the ones who don’t drink, don’t dance,
Don’t smoke, don’t chew,
And never date those girls who do.

The familiar list of “thou shalt nots” aimed at prohibited Christian behaviours frequently centres around personal morality and is often particularly concerned with issues of human sexuality.

It is tragic that we who seek to live a life of faith are not more often recognized by those things we affirm. Why could not followers of Jesus be known by a different little piece of bad verse?

We’re the ones who seek compassion and care,
to listen with openness, together in love,
following the Spirit who comes from above.

But, while hoping to affirm the positive nature of a life of faith, there may be value in identifying attitudes we seek to  avoid in pursuing a life that is faithful to the presence and action of Love.

In my spiritual practice there are certain attitudes and actions it is helpful to avoid. It can be useful to characterize a godly life by a list of “no’s.” But my list is focused less on external behaviour and more, though not exclusively, on internal attitudes. Here is my list of Lenten “No’s”:

NO:

  • Demanding
  • Expectation
  • Resistance
  • Clinging
  • Grasping
  • Greed
  • Aggression
  • Belligerence
  • Meanness
  • Malice
  • Shouting
  • Opposition
  • Competition
  • Judgment
  • Disrespect
  • Unkindness
  • Harm
  • Irritability
  • Drama
  • Dishonesty
  • Hypocrisy

These are all attitudes and acts I believe Jesus opposed.

It is a challenging list. I see in my own experience that, when I am demanding, driven by expectations and caught up in resistance against the way life is, I create needless pain for myself and everyone in my life. When I cling to my view of reality and place myself in opposition to everyone who appears to disagree with my position, I create separation and division in the human community.

The practice of judgment against myself, against other people, against the way life is unfolding, or against God, distances me from reality and prevents me from seeing clearly or engaging with life in meaningful and fruitful ways. When I divide myself from life by my judgments, I am much more likely to do harm to creation. When I lose myself in the little dramas of my life, I am overwhelmed by irritation, fall prey to the shattering intensity of my own stories, and respond to life in ways that are seldom honest and authentic.

As Lent approaches, it is worth thinking about things I might for a time put aside. But cancy, chips, and even coffee, are relatively easy compared with the challenge of giving up: Demanding, Expectation, Resistance, Clinging, Grasping, Greed, Aggression, Belligerence, Meanness, Malice, Shouting, Opposition, Competition, Judgment, Disrespect, Unkindness, Harm, Irritability, Drama, Dishonesty, Hypocrisy. But to the degree I am able to avoid these negative attitudes and behaviours, I may find my life opening to the possibility of affirming the deep and life-giving values Christ seeks to liberate in my life.

As the positive values embodied in Jesus begin to take root in my heart, I may discover that my life may actually stand for something rather than just being against certain culturally dictated peccadilloes.

Advertisements