Friday, January 6, 2017

Affirmative Ten Commandments

I don't know about you, but I always find it easier to apply affirmative directives instead of negative ones.  For one thing, when we hear "don't do X", we still hear the forbidden "X", and subconsciously we nonetheless focus on that which we are supposed to be avoiding.  Also, abstaining from doing something is not the same as doing the opposite.

When it comes to the 10 Commandments, I've always thought that perhaps linguistics is where Moses went wrong.  (I know, it'd be way too easy if all it took for world peace is to change the focus of how the 10 Commandments are written.)  At any rate, I've decided to give it a try myself, so that when I'm going over them in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation, for instance, I'm better challenged to grow in character instead of just checking off all the ways I'm not failing God!

So without further ado, here are the 10 Commandments, as I understand them, that go beyond just what not to do, and instead note what we are to do instead.

1. Remember Who made you; therefore worship God alone, prioritizing Him above all else.  (Two ways to do this follow.)
2. When you speak about God, do so with respect.
3. Every week, set aside time to honor God.
4. Honor our parents as God's co-creators; know your place and hence be humble.
5. Safeguard life; be a steward of it.
6. Be chaste.
7. Share what you have with others.
8. Be honest and trustworthy.
9. Be modest.
10. Be content with what you've got.

A bit of commentary on the above.  The first three commandments I think are self-explanatory, as they already appear in the affirmative on the original templates.  The only observation I've made here is that commandments 2 & 3 are examples of 1.

The fourth commandment is also in the affirmative, but I've always found it confusing how to apply it to my life as an adult child of my parents.  I think when looking at my parents in the grand scheme of things, I'm reminded of my place in the pecking order, which should lead to an attitude of humility in life in general.

The fifth commandment I found a bit passe.  I mean, don't murder, really?  I would think in this day and age, this sort of goes without saying.  People of course ignore it, but not because they're confused about whether they should or shouldn't take life.  I am always tempted to skim right over this one as I do my examination of conscience, bc of course I haven't killed anyone.  But when looked at through a life-affirming lense, ah, now I'm a lot more challenged.  Do I build people up or shut them down? And what about other creatures of God?  I do not give life, not to animals or plants, and not to people (even my own children); I merely assist at best.  So it should go without saying that I can't take that life.  But do I look the other way when others take life into their own hands?  Or do I stand on the side of God, trying to safeguard it?

The sixth and ninth commandments always confused me because I didn't understand why there needed to be two commandments that essentially say the same thing.  Do not commit adultery, and do not covet your neighbor's wife (or husband, though if you want to be a literalist, us women appear to be getting a free pass on this one ;) ).  I get that one is physical action and the other is thought, but is that really sufficient enough difference?  But when looked at as what we ought to be doing instead - being chaste and modest, all of a sudden I understand the difference.  Chastity has to do with our actions when it comes to our sexuality.  We are to keep sexual intimacy inside the marriage covenant.  That is the definition of chastity.  So if we're not married, no sex.  If we are married, sex only with our spouse.  Easy enough.  But then modesty is a lot more nuanced.  It's in our dress, our demeanor, in our sense of humor, our entertainment, our words.  Do we tempt others towards unchastity by our immodesty?  Or do we do our part to safeguard marital sexuality?

The seventh and tenth commandments also gave me trouble over the years.  Again, I thought they were saying the same thing.  Don't steal, and don't covet.  Instead, go beyond merely not taking what doesn't belong to you (because sometimes this is actually up for debate), and share whatever you do have.   That way, there's no question that you're not stealing because your focus is on how you can share what you have instead of how others ought to share with you.  And then there's the coveting. That leads to envy, jealousy, and all around a nasty selfish attitude, as you think about all the things you don't have instead of counting your blessings.  Instead, be content, ie. count your blessings!

Finally, the eight commandment has to do with honesty, and here too I think we can grow so much more if we live our lives focusing on integrity and authenticity instead of just not telling any lies.  We lie with much more than our words.  Omissions can be lies.  Disingeniousness can be lies.  The way we present ourselves in life can be a lie - putting on a facade to try to impress others.  There's no truth in that.  But we can still glaze over this commandment and say we don't technically tell any lies, so we're all good.  No, we're not.  That's just not good enough.  Be honest and trustworthy.  There's the goal of this commandment.

So I plan on looking to this version of the 10 commandments from now on as I try to improve as a human being.  Maybe it can help someone else as well.