Healing implies change. It means going from a state of illness to wellness. Medicine can alter our physical state while the ways in which our emotional and mental states can be changed are many.
Punishment is one means of altering behavior. Everyone has been punished at some point in thir lifetime, some more than others. Most everyone has practiced some form of punishment on another individual, whether they’ve done so consciously or unconsciously.
Punishment has short-term effectiveness. For instance, if you’ve been tagged for speeding or rolling through a stop sign, you know that immediately after the infraction has been caught and you’ve been punished by an outrageously expensive fine, you are extremely cautious of your speed and driving. But give it a few days, weeks or months and your habits come back, or at least your foot seems to have gained some weight as it presses on the accelerator. A child could have told us that reality. If only we could reminisce back far enough we would abandon some of the more archaic practices we have adopted for altering human behavior.
In fact our entire judicial system, that is, the way we dispense justice, is based on punishment and its power to deter. But dispensing justice is another illness that is in need of healing, so let’s challenge ourselves to look beyond the traditional.
Punishment might deter bad behavior in the short-run, but its long term effects can be devastating. Its effects are felt on our health and on our emotional wellbeing. Punishment leaves trails of guilt that drag self-worth on a ride through this lifetime and is sometimes passed along to generations to come. When our self-worth has been damaged, it is easy for punishment to be self-inflicting. We become our biggest critic. The punishment we inflict on ourselves is long lasting because we have no one from whom we can become free. Punishment is anything but healing and cannot yield a better life.
Contrast that feeling of punishment with our experiences thus far. As we are on the Road to Healing, we are beginning to understand the power of Love in the healing process. But this power is predicated on a healthier understanding of the basics of faith. We have to go beyond Sunday School lessons and arrive at better and clearer models of the essence of God.
For instance in the Jewish myth of Adam and Eve (Genesis),we read of a God who punishes His creation by expelling it from paradise. If we read the story literally, the punishment is so severe that it comes with multiple sentences that affect the lives of generations to the end of time. The story of expulsion, taken at face value is counter healing. Expulsion, by definition, is the act of depriving someone membership in an institution or organization. How horrendous that God, would deprive his children of anything. Is this a loving and compassionate Father?
Certainly there is more to the Adam and Eve myth than this, but my point here is that we need to understand myths such as Adam and Eve within the context of the culture and time they were written. This particular story is so deeply ingrained in the psyche and soul of Western civilization that we believe this, and stories like it, to be beyond critique. In the Eastern tradition, we understand the Ultimate – whether we call it God, Energy or Love – is greater than the words and stories that try to describe it. Today as we walk the Road to Healing we begin to use the terms of Inclusion, Tolerance and Love as a proper balance for the damage done through exclusion, intolerance and hatred. If we are to find healing, it will come only when we understand that God is Love, Compassion and Mercy.
As we are discovering, there is a healing power that comes from within and without. The fire from within and without is starting to burn away the disease. Yesterday we made the connection to the great power of Love that touches us from the outside. It is important that today we fortify our experience with new understandings of faith and ultimately God. Punishment is a brief detour toward a dead end. Love is eternal healing and we’re discovering its power for lasting health.
You’ve been punished enough! Stop. You’re not going to make the bigger mistake of punishing yourself. Free yourself of the punishment. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” says the poet and it’s our road sign on this leg of the Lenten Journey.