Last night, I had the pleasure of discussing fear. Pleasure, you say? Yup. It was an honest discussion with a group of men who meet once a month in an effort to find a deeper spirituality in our lives. We come up with topics and share our experiences, worldly as well as spiritual, as it relates to the topic. And last night it was all about fear.
It got me thinking that one of the addictive elements in my own life is the addiction to a reward/punishment system. It’s easy to become addicted: I create a world in which if I am a good boy, I will be rewarded: work hard, and I will get rich; do good deeds and I will go to heaven, study hard and I will get good grades. Worse, be lazy and I will live in poverty; do bad deeds and I go to hell, neglect my own studies and I will be a failure.
If I could just look at life as a gift, then I think the reward/punishment model would die. Yet I seem so intent on accumulating; accumulating things, grades, successes, and anything that can be accumulated. The more things that I can accumulate, the more evidence I have of the rewards!
Last night I envisioned a world with nothing: no money, no house, no family. It was frightening. But in a strange way, it was liberating. It just went to show me how I had materialized all of those things so that I could control and accumulate. All of that is designed to keep the fear away; yet as with all addictions, the relief is temporary and very false.
I think that was what last weeks’ Christian readings were about. Christ is led into the dessert to be tempted by Satan. If I look at it from the punishment/reward model, I simply say that Jesus has won against temptation, and I now have a model of how to get to heaven (reward). Slip up, and I become the property of Satan (punishment). Yet, if I look at it from the life-as-a-gift model, I realize that the three temptations—temptation to accumulate worldly goods; temptation to accumulate power; temptation to accumulate esteem—are all about the things that will only do one thing: lead me into a life of fear and a life of never being fully satisfied by that last fix of accumulated stuff.
I like thinking about fear because I like exposing it for what it is. Thanks, bothers, for a wonderful discussion last night!
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