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Posts Tagged ‘beliefs’

In Which Mirror Do You Prefer to Look?

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 11/08/2017

The Mirror of the Bible

To look in the mirror in a spiritual way is to live according to the Holy Scripture. The true esssence of listening to fragments of the Holy Scripture during the holy liturgy is to carry those to others. There are two ways of doing that. The first is to tell your friends what you learned, what was taught at the Church. This is called “the liturgy after the liturgy”. The other, more powerful way of carrying to others the message is to live by it, practice what is being taught.

First, about talking to others. How do your friends plan their meeting with Christ? This is a simple yet powerful question. Indeed, how do they do that? If they weren’t present at the liturgy, how do they practice what was taught? What stops them, if anything? How can they get counsciousness, if they choose so, of the options and the benefits of meeting Christ in the Church or through their deeds, following on the footsteps that lay on their path to redemption? How many friends do you have that bring you to Christ?

I do not preach to only have Christian friends. There is something to be learned from each person. Openness can be welcomed, in my opinion, as long as it doesn’t require accepting the relativism of truth. Such relativism is the claim that all or most spiritual or religious beliefs are correct, or that there are even are more which are correct. Relativism is in itself a religious frame. Keeping each person’s beliefs is something which can be done with firmness and gentleness, while sometimes exploring how do they apply to a particular life situation. I don’t believe the Bible teaches what our attitude should be about modifying the weather or genetically modified organisms in the food. But discussing about such topics keeping the balance of discernement in mind helps us explore the roots of each idea. Therefore, talking to people with different, even opposite beliefs shouldn’t be so scary. If you really believe what you believe, then you believe it enough that you may allow yourself to doubt it, still keeping enough arguments to return to your spiritual center.

Considering that one knows everything right even in the Orthodox Christianity is a dangerous temptation, therefore, one should keep an open mind, not to change the rightful faith beliefs, but to extend them in ways that make sense today, in this world, without posing a threat to the Christian tradition.

For example, if you share an idea through your behavior, an explanation or an answer and another person rejects it, you could feel ashamed. Either of what you said or of the fact that you wrongfully hoped the other person would cherish your idea. If you feel shame because of what you said, the case is that you didn’t really believe it so much (and you cherished your image more) and in the latter case it is discounting the reality that each of us is entitled to own beliefs, including rejecting other beliefs.

This is what freedom of expression means: that you allow and accept, and even fight for the right of another person saying something you don’t agree to. In their essence, both totalitarisms (such as communism, fascism) and political correctness (cultural marxism) admit no opposition and no middleground. Totalitarisms use propaganda and mass control and political corectness uses public relations, lobby and public policies. In essence, in a true democracy nobody should feel ashamed of saying what one thinks and believes out of fright of negative repercussions.


The Mirror of the Idols

What is the alternative to looking in the mirror by living your life according to Holy Scripture? It is looking at what you think you can become without God. You become the idols you serve.

For example, if you serve wrath, you become wrath. In its extreme, hateful wrath makes anyone so insignificant until it all becomes a dot, a target to fire at. Wrath can be alternatively directed at a behavior, if emotional intelligence is used. For example, a parent may tell to a child: “I love you, therefore I am angry at your wrong ways”, and by that a negative emotion can be used in such a manner that it doesn’t become an idol.

If you serve pride, you become pride. For example, if you congratulate someone because you want to be congratulated yourself or want some attention, you have not only taken that person’s right to be redempted by rewarding that person in the now (rather than the eternity), but you have also become the exponent of pride. The idol is what gets ahead of you. If a parent emotionally supports a child to do something positive, then it is not pride which is fed (unless the parent actually is proud of himself), but the child’s self-esteem and motivation for learning and repeating a useful behavior.

If you serve lust, then everything you might have gathered in life through planning and discipline is put at the altar of whmisical desires to be sacrificed. Lust is an enemy to wisdom and the clouding of the mind – not only in the sexual form. Within lust, one may become the most urgent urge that emobodies the indisciplined and uncontrolled human being.

If you serve greed, then your identity becomes attached to the things you posess and/or aspire to posess: your value becomes what you are worth in the eyes of others and what you see in the mirror when you look at what you use to cover yourself with.

If you serve gluttony, your body will likely take the shape that you give it by serving this god. Both greed and gluttony may embody the desire, the aspiration to have the own physical needs met, believing that if one doesn’t do that, nothing and nobody will, when in fact only serving others through our talents can truly establish a balance. Of course, one must know how to choose who to serve.

If you serve sloth, then abandoning reponsabilities and gifts is a spiritual suicide, giving up to pessimism and negativism, depression and despair. For example, taking a calculated break after hard work is something which can bring balance, but you cannot counteract an exaggeration, an extreme, with another extreme. Two wrongs d’t make a right.

If you serve envy, then you feel a certain inferiority which tells you whatever another one has that you value must be used to bring him or her down, instead of using admiration as a force to take learnings from a model.

Which Do You Choose?

There you have, in a nutshell, the two possible mirrors between which you life pendulates. When you stop and look, what do you see?


Posted in The Art of Respecting Others | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 20/05/2010

Today I’ve decided to write about something a little bit more abstract and with great impact to each of our lives. My notion of respect might be rather particular.

I think each person, as a human being, deserves respect as a default right. Of course, rights can sometimes be suspended, but never a priori. I do not condition respect by the respect of others. I believe each person has its own considerations towards respect, and that might be different to mine.

I respect each person’s vision of the world. That vision, including beliefs, attitudes, values, experience, potential, principles, perspectives, expression, is each person’s sum of influences. That means that everything that happened into that person’s life had an influence which has ultimately determined that person’s vision.

That vision may not be correct, might not be according to reality and mostly, is likely different than mine. Still, that vision deserves respect. Now… respect is a value… the translation of a value in a behavior is what makes it visible in the eyes of others.

It is rather likely that lack of respect stands out, more than respect. In the mean time, there are situations when we consider we have behaved respectfully, although other people don’t feel respected. Why does that happen?

First of all, one thing that happens if that when someone thinks he or she is respected, that means it is the same thing as being agreed to. It is not. It is easy to prove lack of respect towards someone not having the same beliefs as you do. But people are not their opinions. And communication is more than agreeing. Some people talk to be listened to and ask questions to be agreed to, but that is not communication. And certainly it is not a proof of respect.

Another thing that might happen would be the tendency of treating a refuse as a personal offense. For example, someone I know asked me to send forward a link on the protest which took place a few days ago in Piata Victoriei from Bucharest. I replied, “I don’t believe in that cause, I don’t want to promote it”. I understood her point of view and that she was affected, and in the same time, while I expressed respect towards her beliefs, I felt judged because she took that as a personal rejection. An idea to keep in mind for such situations: “if someone doesn’t agree to (some of) your ideas, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t agree to you as a person, it doesn’t mean that YOU are denied/rejected/ignored/banned/prohibited“. It just means there’s a difference in opinions. Where there is a difference, there must be respect.

Let’s take an example of a social habit that most people can relate to. It is well known that smoking damages health. That means people who smoke are likely increasing the chances to get their health affected. If you smoke, you are most probably aware of the fact you endanger your health. For example, if someone smokes, I respect that person’s right to do harm to themselves, because it’s that person’s right to choose what to do with his/her health. The same with people who lie to themselves or any other similar situation. While having respect, I do not support their choice in any way. That means if someone asks me for as much as moving a lighter a few inches further, I don’t. I respect their rights, and I disagree with their manifestation.

Why do I do that?

For instance, if someone is doing something wrong for himself/herself, but is interested in changing something, I can find that out with questions, and plant some little suggestions or give information. But, if that person is not really interested, I don’t want to convince them. A lot of time is wasted with discussions like: “I think X!” “Oh, no, I think not X!”. I don’t want to convince anyone that I’m right, it’s not like I own the ultimate truth or get a candy each time i determine someone to change his/her mind… Still, some people continue to behave like that…

I believe each person is entitled to make their own discoveries, in due time. To face a person with a conclusion (s)he is not ready to understand or accept is like taking away from them what they could have discovered, on their own, with the greater gain for themselves. For example, my mother has a very bad opinion about Romania. In the same time, I don’t agree to her bad opinion, but I respect her vision, as I understand it is due to her experience. She did not try to force her own opinion on me, but she expected for me to end up to a similar conclusion. After a few years, I have decided to move from Romania, but not out of HER reasons, but because of MY reasons. That way, I am entirely responsible for my decision.

I will give you an example of how I applied that from my own experience. In highschool, I had a colleague. I used to have with her a lot of contradictions, on different topics. Those contradictions weren’t going anywhere. I was trying to explain to her, among others, the influence of her family situation on her development opportunities. About six (!) years later, she told me she was beginning to understand what I was telling her back then. Now imagine: I could have rambled 6 years on that topic… maybe I would have convinced her, but then, it wasn’t she who had the responsibility and the merit of realizing. Yes, sometimes, it may be a good thing to intervene in someone’s life… but that often happens when people assume they know better what’s appropriate for others.

Thinking you know better what’s appropriate for others is a deep lack of respect, it’s like saying: “You don’t know how to live your life, let me show you”. Even if you’re right, that is not the proper approach. It is one I can afford to use with close friends who appreciate frank, honest opinions.

Another thing that I consider lack of respect is labeling people, judging them for less they truly are, through partial, momentary experiences, especially those of “idiot”. There’s a classic presentation from the ‘ 80s, “how can someone be an idiot?”, which concludes that actually when you tend to believe that someone is an idiot, that means (s)he actually has a very different idea from yours. So the thing to discover when tending to label someone in an un-elegant manner is what is so different in what this person is stating.

Ultimately, do on to others as you want to be done on yourself may sometimes be a form of lack of respect, discounting a fundamental truth: people have different motivations, consider important different things and have different values and expectations. For instance, I like to be awake at 6 AM in the morning, listen to audiobooks while walking on the street and play chess, talk on YM, write on blog and listen to music in the same time. I doubt everyone would like the same thing.

PS: What I have stated until here doesn’t apply when someone might hurt someone else through a certain behavior. One thing I cannot respect is to interfere through your liberty with someone else’s rights.

Posted in The Art of Respecting Others | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

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