Friday, August 27, 2010

Elul Reflections 6: Disordered Love & Pride

In 'Jewish Spiritual Guidance: Finding Our Way to God', by Carol Ochs and Kerry Olitsky, a chapter on 'Encountering Temptation and Sin' offers some different language for thinking about sin.  Building on the definition of sin that I offered in Reflection 2, and the practice of divesting ourselves of behaviors and habits that no longer serve us that I described in Reflection 4, here are two examples based on these sections of Ochs and Olitsky's book:

Sin as Disordered Love
Dante wrote, 'Set love in order thou that lovest me'.  This is about priorities.  We have to work on having loving relationships with people.  If we are able to experience love in this world as a way of experiencing God's love, we can become more open to both giving and receiving love.  We open ourselves to being a channel and become more aware of the things that we do or say or think that create barriers to the flow of love.  Sin can be the refusal to love, to recognize that we are loved, or jealousy in love.  We can begin by asking ourselves whether the things we do and the priorities we set - the ways we order our lives - reflect the love that we seek or the love that we want to give.  Do we love work more than family?  Do we love the things that we acquire more than we love the community of which we want to be a part?

Sin as Pride
Pride is when we put our self in a place where we ascribe our accomplishments and all the dynamics of our lives to ourselves.  In doing so, we become disconnected from the complex and interconnected web of life of which we are such a tiny part, and disconnected from experiencing Grace.  When we place ourselves in the center of our universe we are, paradoxically, isolating ourselves.  We can be left feeling alone.  When we forget how what we do is completely interrelated with the lives of others our forgetfulness can lead to hurtful and thoughtless behavior toward others.  We can ask ourselves, 'Do I recognize the gifts that come my way through my connections with others?'  Or 'Do people sometimes experience me as insensitive because I don't notice how I'm affecting others?'

For all these sins, we seek to learn, to change, to return to a place of balance, and to open ourselves to the fullness of experiencing love, to the fullness of being present to another and, in so doing, to reaching toward fulfilling our potential as human beings.

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