Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to get out of deep trouble

Many people have, in their personal lives, their work, or in their "beliefs," have gotten themselves into a lot of trouble, and wonder how to extricate themselves. They also worry about their children, particularly to protect them from making the same mistakes or, as is also true in many cases, how to help extricate the children from the same mistakes the adults had made.

One can receive no better advice for this problem than consulting the first Psalm. Here it is and I will comment on specifics.

Psalm 1

1 Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent,
2 but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade. [Whatever he does prospers.]
4 Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore in judgment the wicked shall not stand, nor shall sinners, in the assembly of the just.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

This is one of my favorites psalms, even though it is not full of beautiful song and imagery, even though it is only six lines long, and even though it seems obvious on the surface. It is one of my favorite psalms because I can point to it to advise people who are in serious messes how to get themselves out, in a very practical step by step way. You can also think of this psalm as being like an abstract, a summary of what is in the rest of the psalms. It is also like a prescription for an ailment.

If you and/or your children are enmeshed in a bad situation, here is how to follow the "prescription" of Psalm 1, step by step.

1. "Follow not the counsel of the wicked"- no longer take the advice of the troublemakers and that includes stopping both conversations and also your reading of their writings.
2. "Nor walk in the way of sinners"- no longer emulate any part of the behavior of those who you had been either associating with or looking up toward.
3. "Nor sit(s) in the company of the insolent"-no longer hang around with not only the troublemakers listed above, but also anyone who has a sneering, irreverent attitude toward ANYTHING, since insolence is contagious and a barrier to further development and understanding.
4. "Delight in the law of the Lord"-this means to start to understand how God's unmeasurable love for each human being is the source of all of his instruction, even the "don'ts" that people do not easily understand. So read scripture and other (authentic) religious writings and practice understanding that the source of all the "law" of God is founded in his love for each person.
5. "Meditate on his law day and night"-This does not mean give up your job or your activities and just sit around thinking about God. It means that your awareness of God and his sayings and instructions should be like a constant companion who is valued, not something brought out of the closet only once a week during worship service.
6. "He is like a tree planted near running water"-Recognize that if you are to be a good tree, you need to be near constantly running, new refreshed water. Thus "plant" yourself where you can receive this type of constant encouragement in goodness and renewal. This may mean transferring from a low morals school to one of higher spiritual goodness, for example, as a practical step. This could mean changing jobs or co-workers, so that you are surrounded by those who constantly refresh with positive attitude toward each other and life, and not the negative. New friends who bring constant refreshed goodness into even the small parts of life (like shopping, sports activities, etc) should be cultivated and surround yourself with them, rather than those who recycle the same stale water of depressiveness and negativity.
7. "The wicked...are like chaff which the wind drives away"-To explain the image, when one harvests wheat for making bread, the outer layer must be removed from the grain, and this paper thin coating is called the chaff. Wind (from hand held fans) is one way that people in Bible times separated the heavy good grain on the ground from the light chaff which blows away and is discarded. So goodness is "heavy weight" while the wicked are "light weight," even though it may not seem that way because of the power of the assets and persuasiveness of the wicked. Thus this advice means to start withdrawing any assets you have invested in the wicked, whether it be actual assets (money and time) or virtual assets (the attention that you pay to them and their messages). When you withdraw your money, your time and your attention from supporting the wicked, you move your assets to the good and "lighten" the wicked, so they can be blown away, by removing their base of operation. So do not donate your money or time to "causes" that the wicked advocate (even those that are supposed or even legitimate charities) because your good intended donations keep the wicked weighed down in place. As you pull away you and your children's involvement with even "good" activities that the wicked pursue, you will start to lighten the anchor of the wicked, and they will more easily topple when it is their time.
8. "The Lord watches over the way of the just"-You must remember EVERY DAY and also teach your children that God knows absolutely everything you have ever thought, to say nothing of what you have actually done, whether in secret or open, whether openly aggressive or passively aggressive: God knows ALL of it, even before you do it. It is important that your children and YOU understand that, because that will give you the knowledge and strength to pull away from wickedness NOW and not "later." God's knowledge is not delayed.
9. "But the way of the wicked vanishes"-When support for wickedness is withdrawn, it vanishes. Think of all the evil people who have existed in history whose names don't even exist in history books, etc. Life is good and forward looking, and if left alone, wickedness dries up on the vine, blows away, and vanishes for good. HOWEVER, humans have a temptation, which is to do "research" and record the deeds of the wicked (and write "suspense" fiction novels about wicked people, both real and fictional) which hinders the natural drying up and disappearing of evil. You must wean yourself and your children away from documentation, either fictional or non fiction, of wickedness. Stop producing such works and stop consuming them.

Now, more about point 9. I'm not an old party pooper who is trying to censor. I enjoy a good murder mystery novel, such as by Agatha Christie, as much as anyone. But it is the dosage that is the problem. Normal human beings living during normal times are not supposed to be immersed in the constant awareness, study and entertainment that are created based on wickedness! It's like the debate about TV. In a normal life, unless there is war, most humans never saw except maybe once in their life the criminal killing of a human. Yet within a few years after TV was developed children have seen dozens of killings, both real and imagined, a DAY on TV. It is a matter of dosage, whether in reality or entertainment.

Understand that humans have short memories for a reason: that is part of God's plan to allow wickedness to dry up on the vine and blow away in the wind. People hinder their own health and God's plan when they chase the evil "chaff" in the wind, capture it, put it on film or laminate it, so that people can be "entertained" or "never forget" or "learn about history." You must wean your children-and your selves-away from contemplation of the works, either fictional or real, of wickedness, so that in the natural cycle of things they dry up and vanish. Water yourselves with the constant flow of goodness (or at least reality based normalcy!) Do not chase after or feed the works of the wicked, and let them vanish as their support does. Do not succumb to the hubris and temptation (like Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings") of "studying" or, worse, as people do today, are "entertained" by rehashing and recycling wicked deeds in the past, the present news, and certainly not the flood of "entertainment." It is like judicious salt, once in a while, sure, read such a book or produce such a movie, but in the way it is now, the wheat is trampled underfoot while the chaff is glorified, put on digital or other media, and floods the lungs and the air of everyone who is trying to follow the way of good, but is saturated by echoes of wickedness.

I hope that this helps! It will if you just do it!