Perhaps nothing is as important to character as revering the miracle of life. Such a reverence has to develop early on. And just revering human life is not sufficient. It’s incumbent upon us to appreciate the preciousness of all life. Moreover, we do well to appreciate the entire creation that enables life and sustains life. We’re but a small part of that vast and profound creation. Remembering that can truly humble us. And humble reverence lies at the very heart of character integrity.
Our Narcissistic Age
Revering life and all the other miracles of creation challenges almost anyone in our age and culture of narcissism. Our self-absorption and self-indulgence virtually marries us to the “pleasure principle.” (See also: Mastering Appetites and Desires) As a result, we tend to take life and the miraculous creation that sustains it for granted. Almost everything we do revolves around satisfying our desires. We seek what pleases us and avoid what pains us. We usually stop and think about the preciousness and fragility of life itself we face the possible loss of it. So, it’s hard to be mindful of the precious gift that makes it all possible on a regular basis.
Revering Life Is Sometimes Hard to Do
Because we align ourselves so firmly with the pleasure principle, revering life itself is hard to do. The proof of this is that when we’re in deep pain we can sometimes wish we weren’t even here. And we can easily wish people who brought great pain upon us weren’t here either. We have to move past the pleasure principle to value life over everything else. And this is a reality the people of my home state of Arkansas had to face starkly over the past few weeks.
In the name of all its citizens, the state sought to execute 8 people in just 11 days. And it did so for the most ignoble of reasons. One of the drugs used to terminate life was close to its expiration date. But because of various legal challenges, so far the state has managed to end the lives of only four. So, it probably won’t reach its goal of executing all eight.
Now, the folks the state demanded forfeit their own lives had inflicted great suffering on others. (Although evidence seriously questioned the true guilt of at least two of those executed.) So, on one level, you can easily understand the state’s position. But as a people, we supposedly regard life as an inalienable right. As such, we can abridge it for good cause, but never revoke it. Acknowledging it as an endowment, we lack the right to rescind it .
The Heart of Many Problems
I’ve worked as a therapist for many years. And I’ve dealt with many problems. It’s hard for me to think of a human dilemma I’ve encountered that didn’t have at its root a lack of positive regard for a person and the preciousness of their life. So I work with folks to transcend the pleasure principle. We have to get past doing only what we think will please us. And we have get beyond doing what we think we have to do to avoid pain. We have to become champions of life itself and all that sustains it. I know that sounds trite. But love is, and always has been, the answer. And loving is difficult at times, especially when it entails sacrifice.
Revering life involves more than just opposing abortion or the death penalty. To truly revere life you have to commit yourself to the hard work of nurturing and sustaining it. That means tending to its advancement wherever and whenever you see the opportunity. Life can’t thrive in the absence of love. Problems come when we don’t love ourselves properly and when we don’t know how to properly love others. Narcissistic folks haven’t developed sufficient care (i.e. empathy) to properly tend to either task. They just want to indulge themselves. And they feel entitled to do whatever it takes, regardless of the impact. They revere neither life nor the value of the lives of others. And their lack of reverence defines their pathology.
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