Why are we so merciless? We wouldn't allow our behavior in someone else. We are unrelenting. Bill collectors all over the world wish they had our persistence. Well, they do have it, but don't realize it; much the same as us. Don't realize it.

I could probably go into a very long list of all the ways that we point at ourselves with dissatisfaction. We grumble and gripe, and even have pet names for ourselves. "Oh, oh, Dummy's working overtime." Why do we do that!?

I've heard some say that it's a reflection of our low self-esteem. We don't think we're any good. We're certainly not worth as much as many of those around us. We feel like we can't get it right. We always seem to have to settle.

I think I agree with that analysis. It certainly fits with many things I've read, heard, and experienced. But I'm just not sure we've solved the problem.

Seems like there are hundreds of self-help groups around that are in constant labor combating low self-esteem. I don't want to take anything from all the good that these groups do. But I've got a bank account that says that those folks are still getting after themselves. Just like me. Why?

I really admire how deep these programs reach. They really make one look inside, and they make it fairly easy, what with the whole group bearing its soul each meeting.

(haha) I just had a wonderful idea. I'm thinking of starting a new Anonymous group called BPA.

Bad Persons Anonymous. I even heard it in my head. "Hi, I'm Jack, and I'm a Bad Person." In fact, I'm beginning to realize that that's what this piece is doing. It's being a meeting for BPA. I realize we're in different places, but it's nice and safe? that way. I know I feel more comfortable saying "I'm a bad person," when I'm alone.

"Hi. I'm Jack, and I'm a Bad Person." (Cheers from the group. One or two stand.) This is fun.

What brought that idea on? It seemed to me that the A groups are mainly addressing an issue that rests upon a deeper problem. A deeper Ignorance. So few of us have an idea of what we're really like. C S Lewis said it so well. "A person never knows how bad he is until he tries really hard to be good."

Our behavior is such a paradox. In one breath we can justify theft, rape, robbery, even murder in ourselves. In the next breath, we're calling ourselves Stupid, Pea Brain or Klutz. I mean when you think about it, we're way overboard with giving ourselves breaks, and permission to take advantage of a situation. Meantime, in the background, there's a steady stream of scoldings and epithets. Why do we do that?

Why can't we do the title of this piece? Why can't we look on ourselves with compassion? Give ourselves breaks in that department, too? I think it has to do with that underlying Ignorance that I've never heard more than mentioned, casually, in passing quickly to some other topic; or making an overblown issue out of it until it loses it's true value. No one is looking inside. They are too busy in the diversion of laughter.

Who screwed up today? My hand is already up. How about yesterday? In an absolutely Perfect world, would you have done that something differently? Given a little more? Taken, nothing? "I wanted to, but I didn't feel like I could afford it." I know that seems a stretch to call that a "screw up."

I think I need to explain something, here. We need to examine "screw ups." What's the basic principle that founds the opinion for judging if something is a screw up? Certainly we can't start getting into specifics. We'd be overrun with rules. We can't draw a line and say those things are Screw Ups, these are not. Murder is a Screw Up, keeping the extra nickel you got in change is not. Not helping the local Girls Club at their bake sale is not a Screw Up.

If we started looking at specifics, we'd wind up like a large majority of Christians. Vast numbers of folks who say they are Christians wouldn't know how to live if they didn't have a long list of things that were OK, and things that were Not. Good works, appearance and professed abstinence have become more important than the Bible. I call it the First Church of Behavioral Science. No, we don't dare start to specify which actions are or are not an official Screw Up.

"Use not to your own advantage, that which does not belong to you." That's what I said. God said it this way, "Don't steal." Don't you know that we always stop at the strict definition of theft, but commonly take self-advantage of other's belongings, without their permission? We can't stop anywhere on the spectrum of theft and call everything below not-theft.

The Principle doesn't reside on the spectrum. It's underpins it. There are no specifics. Just the principle of taking something that isn't yours for your own advantage. I'm sorry, but that extends down to taking a paper clip home from work.

I hope that clarifies what we are defining as a Screw Up. Not doing what's Right, however small an action.

I'm going to repeat a whole paragraph.

Who screwed up today? My hand is already up. How about yesterday? In an absolutely Perfect world, would you have done that something differently? Given a little more? Taken, nothing? "I wanted to, but I didn't feel like I could afford it." I know that seems a stretch to call that a "screw up", but now I know that you at least see that I view it as a Screw Up.

By the way, I want to thank those who showed charity and, for the sake of getting on with this, have raised your hand, too. Actually, I guess you can go now. The main objective of this piece is to help folks admit that they Screw Up. That's the first step to eliminating all that derisive behavior.

How can the true drunk not look with compassion on another drunk? He really understands what it's like. When a person really understands their behavior, there's no room for put downs and name-calling. Even in disappointment, there will be compassion and forgiveness. I don't mean license, I'm mean a forgiving attitude. I don't mean coddling, I mean a validating frame of mind.

I really think that very few of us dig down deep to see what's really buried under our behavior. We're the Great Rationalizers, don't you know. I'm reminded of the kind of people who continually pump themselves up. Not knowing how to deal with their true, imperfect, Screwing Up nature, they have to cover with tons of action to fill the spaces left by what they can't talk about.

Boy, it's no wonder that the self-help field is so popular. How many different groups or methods does a person try, on average? I have a remembrance of people expressing their involvement in such groups in the same terms used when talking about relationships. Great at first, but it faded. Going from group to group. Reading all the different books on how to be happy. Drug regimens to balance the stress out of your system. An awful lot of people are in search of peace with themselves.

No, this isn't the place where I start telling you how you have to accept Jesus as you personal Lord and Savior. That place doesn't exist in my world. All the same, getting in touch with God will surely help accomplish the goal of eliminating our self-demeaning behavior. But, I certainly don't want to sound like those that will tell you Christianity is a bed of roses. It is a bed of roses. Roses with thorns. Christianity is a bed of thorns, too. The scalp hunters don't focus on that part, though. I even think that they are subject to the Ignorance, too.

It's not that getting in touch with God will eliminate our rough behavior. In or out of the God frame, the principle involved is the same. I happen to believe that it's a velvet covered principle when we encounter it in the God frame. One of the reasons why we were able to address the issue in the first place was because we had God to back us up. He says, "It's OK." He's one of the ones who stood up when I said, "Hi. I'm Jack, and I'm a Bad Person."

Well, I feel like I've been rattling on like C S Lewis. It was intriguing reading "Mere Christianity" for the first time. He starts a chapter by telling that he's going to tell what Sin is. But by the time I get to the end of the chapter, I have the feeling that I've missed something, because it seems like he didn't talk about Sin.

What is that underlying principle that we must acknowledge? We're Bad people. We can't get it Right.
I know how that grates. Who wants to admit that there is no hope of ever being Right (perfect)? Sure, it's relatively easy to admit to the occasional screw up . But a Permanent Condition? Not me, boy!

But that's the only way out of our self-inflicted misery.

Oh, I hear that. You've known this for years. It's common knowledge. Nothing new here. Wanna try a little experiment? A little reality check, maybe?

Now I want you to go real easy on yourself. Make this something that you feel is only ten or twenty percent of your capability. I want you to make yourself a promise. Promise yourself that you will not perform some common life action, something that you indulge in, even though you have mixed feelings about it. The clearest examples of this are abstaining from that Something. We all have one. It could be anything from a chocolate bar to an ongoing, low-level behavior. This promise is like making a New Years Resolution.

You'll have to be honest with yourself, here. That's why I said pick something VERY easy. Don't start with something like giving up cigarettes or sex. If you look around a bit, you'll find some little thing that fits this exercise. It just needs to be something that you do enough to give you a good sampling to work with. If you pick something that happens regularly, but only once a month, on average, this exercise will be worthless.

There's another way to look at this. Make yourself a promise to do something that you know is somewhat difficult for you. Then sit back and watch the show. See, once you "give your word" that you will do something, it becomes one of the items at the forefront of your consciousness. Every time a circumstance offers the opportunity to do the action, it will get right in your face if you even think about refusing. I know you've felt this before.

I think it's common for people to decide against an action based on some rationalization, but then turn back to the agreed action with a mumbled, "OK, OK, I'll do it." Ever said something like that to yourself?

That's what I mean by "in your face." Once you make your promise, every time circumstances line up to give you a choice, that Promise will pester you to do the "right" thing. Doesn't mean you will. But the Promise will get after you regardless of the outcome.

So what? This is the way we can learn our true nature. I can't keep my Promise all the time, even when I've done my best to make it an easy one. Before we investigate our imperfect nature further, let me balance a little and say that I think people are mostly Good.

I have always maintained that people are way more good than bad. More precisely, more not-bad, than bad. Pick your favorite Villain. How many times has that Villain performed his villainy; in comparison to his total actions? Even Hitler wasn't a Badguy 24 hours a day. Many times we need to be able to see our goodness, instead of berating ourselves for our imperfections.

Someone asked me this: How do you align the goodness outweighing the bad in men with the scriptures that say 'the heart of a man is wicked and deceitful'?

I align them right next to each other. They don't conflict, as far as I'm concerned. Do any of those scriptures say that man or his heart or his mind is 100% bad, evil, deceitful, or wicked? Grouped all around the wicked and deceitful parts of my heart are the merciful, loving, strong, generous, upholding, faithful parts.

If I read God right, He's saying we're rotten at the core; meaning, there is A rottenness at our core. He's not saying that the whole core is rotten, but there is A rottenness down there that has the capability of infecting all the other parts of the core. He's not saying that we act only from the rottenness at that core, either.

The main proof is before us daily. Look around at how people act, IN TOTAL. Tally up the wicked, deceitful acts and all the not-wicked, not-deceitful acts. Even most murderers, only did it once. If people weren't more good than bad, the human race wouldn't survive.

People are mostly good. You just can't trust a damn one of 'em! It's TRUE! ! ! :-)

There's a manifestation of the knowledge of our imperfection that often occurs when a critic tries to deny God. Although they don't know it, they are admitting that they can't do it right. Briefly, they'll say something like, "God can't be a God of Love, and treat people that way; famine, war, etc."

People have made up their own God since there was people. Very few of those made-up Gods get angry. They hold the Universe together for our benefit. They are there in our time of need. They protect us and provide for us. They fight on our side. They Love us. Why have folks made those kinds of gods?

Knowing we're imperfect, we won't accept (allow) a God capable of anger, except maybe on our enemies. The admission that God can get angry allows two things: 1-there is an all-powerful, personal, creator who can interact with us on an individual basis; and 2-He may turn that anger on us; against which none can stand.

"Oh no! My God is a God of Grace, Peace, Love and Blessing. My God loves me too much to get angry with me."

Let me tell you, admitting I was a Jerk was one of the best things that ever happened to me. No, really. It leveled the playing field.

Not only was I able to look on myself with compassion, I immediately realized that every other person on the planet is the same as me. They can't get it Right either! It's like everybody having blue eyes, and some people feeling inferior because of it. It would be great if seeing our Badness was as easy as recognizing eye color, but it's way not. That's why I capitalize the "I" in Ignorance. We've got our Bad side secreted away so well that everyone goes around acting like they're OK, but falling apart when they get home alone.

If we never understand that we're imperfect, and that no matter how hard we try, we're going to Screw Up, we'll never know that everyone else is that way, too.

Here's another bonus, besides the leveling. Our new understanding relieves major portions of the stress we feel from other's actions toward us. Remember the drunk? He doesn't take it personal that the other guy is on his butt in the gutter, after promising not to drink anymore. He never expected that guy to keep his word. He's been in that guy's place. Hasn't he promised every one from his mother, wife, boss, and God that he'd stop, too? He knows what it is to be unable to control one's drinking.

People are going to Screw Up. When their Screw Up involves you, you can at least not experience the stress behind taking the other person's actions personally. I've held for a long time that we can't take anything personal, even the good stuff. People do very little for reasons other than their own. Some people even become known as Do Gooders as a result of their doing nice things for their own reasons. While you're probably not a Do Gooder, I think you can understand how even nice things can be done for selfish reasons.

That's a pretty good bonus. Most of us have very large Personal hooks inside us. We don't have to be a Paranoid to take things personally. People are even casual sometimes in telling how this or that person doesn't like them because they didn't speak at the market, or wave back as they drove by. We just love to play the Victim. Why? It relieves us of taking responsibility for our actions.

There are no victims. We are only affected by other's behavior to the extent that we allow. The feelings that get stirred up inside us, that originate inside us, don't come from outside us. They are ours, and result from the ideas that we hold, not from what others say or do. It's Sticks and Stones.

I like to characterize our condition by saying that we are all covered by a big Mylar envelope. Nothing gets out, nothing gets in. We can have no Real effect on others. Others can have no Real effect on us. Here's a good example.

I taught school for fifteen years. Ten years after I stopped teaching, I realized that I wasn't a teacher by the commonly held idea. All I was was a bringer, a discoverer of evidence. The student was the one who accomplished the understanding. I couldn't put that understanding into the student's head. Mylar envelop.

You can't change anyone. Until we have the capability of getting inside someone's mind and installing new beliefs, we'll have to muddle through this life locked in our Mylar envelop; M-velop. Listen to this statement. "I changed his mind." See? You can't change someone's mind. The change happens inside the other person. Didn't I really mean, "What I said, changed his mind?" That's more like it. M-velop. You can't make someone two inches taller. You can't change someone's basic self, basic worth. You can't change a person. M-velop.

Well, now that you nod in agreement, focus back to the fact that they can't change you, either. M-velop.

What's the sense in governing some, nay, any of our actions by what people say about us? Or think about us? I don't have to try to make that person like me. When someone flies off the handle for no apparent reason, I can even say thanks, for giving me a better understanding of their attitude. There's a definite detachment that comes with understanding our imperfect condition. It's just like having an M-velop over your whole body.

It may, at first, be thought that the M-velop would prohibit any commerce between people. This argument doesn't take notice of the principles that govern all interaction. As I see it, interaction is a four-step process.

In practice, it looks like this:

Having that impenetrable M-velop surrounding each person doesn't preclude getting things done, or true interaction. You interacted with the person just fine, and resulting behavior occured. The decision was all yours; based on criteria that you held. That person couldn't make you like the candy bar he suggested. Let's get back to our Anonymous groups.

It's interesting that in the specific area of concern, the A groups focus real good on their lack of control in that area. AA makes it very clear that the member has no control when it comes to drinking. "But I'm in great shape. Been sober for twelve years." "I'm still working on these miserable bouts of depression, though." I've known people who were the same before and after they got sober. The only difference in their lives seemed to be that they didn't drink anymore. Seems like they only got in touch with the Real Them where booze was concerned. We need to realize that we don't have the control we wish for in any area of our lives. We don't have just one little corner where we Screw Up. We Screw Up Bigtime.

There's one sure way to stop getting down on yourself for not living up to some phony ideal behavior that other people insist that everyone (but them) use. You can look at yourself with awe and wonder that you do as well as you do. After all, you are making it on your own. You're taking responsibility for the major portion of your life; even your Screw Ups. That's the last bonus. You get to objectively view your life and see all the good parts. Those are all the parts you haven't had time to recognize because you were too occupied with lecturing yourself to do better.

Have a heart. You're doing a pretty good job. You know, it's wonder we get anything done, with this millstone of imperfection dragging behind us. What a bunch of poor slobs we are. Try looking on someone else, knowing that they have as much trouble getting it right as you do. Doesn't that bring your compassion right to the surface? I want to go over and give that guy a hand.

We are really awesome creatures to be able to live what some of us call happy, satisfied lives. Seems to me that any lesser intelligence would just sink down in some corner in ignorant despair.

Look upon thyself with compassion.

Oh, darn. Meeting time is over. Hey, all you Jerks, there's coffee and donuts. Unless you're one who's promised yourself that you'd cut down on the donuts. For you, we've big bag of carrots.

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