Transgression healing. I have a lot to say on this subject.
What is transgression?
Some of it I’ve said before. Like the fact that the people who insist the loudest that it is, in fact, possible for us to completely ignore and deny and not even think about the things that tempt us are often the ones doing the really fucked up stuff in our society. The people who think the best way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to somehow turn them off end up obsessing with turning them off which leads them to give the ideas more power than they deserve, since thinking about not thinking about something keeps you thinking about it (ad nauseum). The rest of us might spend some time thinking about our bizarre fantasies, might even integrate them into our sexual role play or find some other outlet for them.
You see, people who follow the big man in the sky (or rather, the group of people here on the ground who claim they can communicate with said invisible man) tend to do, or not do things for the wrong goddamn reasons. You don’t stop yourself from raping little girls because some all-powerful stalker thinks it’s a bad idea and will punish you if you don’t. You don’t rape little girls because it hurts them and fucks them up and makes their entire experience on this earth exponentially harder and you don’t want to do that to other people because of this crazy thing called empathy.
People of true moral fiber don’t need the promise of some eternal reward or punishment to stop them from doing bad shit to others. That noise is just a distraction. You are in possession of the basic common sense needed to translate the pain of your experience to other people’s experiences, and the basic empathy not to want others to feel pain. Don’t outsource your sense of right and wrong, it just fucking confuses you.
Example: when I was a teen, I experienced the insane rush of brand new hormones that nearly ever human goes through. I wanted sex all the time. ALL the time. I thought I wasn’t supposed to think about sex, I thought I wasn’t supposed to masturbate, so I would just try…not…to think…about the incredibly tantalizing little red button between my legs which made such wonderful things happen to my body whenever I touched it…don’t think about it…don’t think about how good the anticipation already feels, even without doing anything…don’t move ever so slightly in your seat so that the crease of your jeans rubs it a little…don’t think about some man putting his hand between your legs…
Dude, I wanted so badly to be a good person. It was literally the most important thing in my life, nothing else came anywhere close, but try as I might, I could not be a good person. My desire to “be righteous” was an intermittent, still, small voice and my desire for an orgasm was a constant yell. I never had a chance, but I hated myself for not stopping. I thought of myself as a sinner, a weakling, a pervert. I was miserable.
The REAL Slippery Slope
Along with all of this lovely self-hatred, there was this strange equalization of all sins. I was a sinner. I understood there were greater and lesser sins, but at a very basic level, once I crossed the initial line, there weren’t any more lines to cross. Once I felt the temptation and didn’t banish it immediately, I was already in the country of the sinner, where anything goes. Sort of like when a dieter eats that chocolate he’s offered by a coworker and then goes to the buffet after work and stuffs himself because he already messed up. I was like that.
Because of this, I crossed some lines I shouldn’t have crossed. Did one or two things that common sense and common decency should have stopped me from doing. Still fairly innocent, but things I can now say with confidence I would never be remotely tempted to do now. My basic respect for others stops me where religion never could.
Religion and a Better World
Yeah. Go church. You didn’t help me for shit. You just made me feel really, really bad about myself over something that wasn’t hurting a single other human being ( and was giving me a pretty startling amount of pleasure) for many, many years. And we have plenty of evidence that religion is not so stellar at stopping people from hurting others. It sure didn’t help those priests. Or the crusaders. Or the Inquisition. Or the terrorists who bombed the world trade center. At the heart of nearly every major religion on this planet is a message of peace, forgiveness, kindness, and love. Most of this world belongs to one religion or another. So why the hell don’t we have world peace yet???
Pshhh. Religion. Fuck that shit. Humanism. That’s what it’s about. Loving other humans, being good to other humans.
Make decisions for yourself, kiddos. Don’t let a religion do it for you. Don’t let a society do it for you. The rules they’ve designed are entirely arbitrary, and they can’t keep pace with the way the world is changing around you, they way you are changing with the world. Don’t worry about “sinning.” Worry about being good to others. If that’s not your first concern, you’re going to fuck up on it way more often than is fair to the rest of us, trying first and foremost to love our neighbors and second, to heal ourselves so we can love our neighbors better.
The Self-Involvement of Guilt
Okay, so say you’re worrying about being good to others, and you fuck up. Yeah, that’s going to happen. No doubt. Now what?
You probably beat yourself up a lot when you do something wrong. You’re probably like, “I should have done better. I wish I’d known. I’m never going to get a handle on this. I suck so bad.”
Probably the most fucked up thing about religion, in my opinion, is the extreme separation of action and consequence. The normal, healthy, natural sequence is this: someone acts, they learn from the consequences not to act that way again, or they don’t and people revile them and eventually they learn from being reviled, or they don’t and they die.
With religion, someone acts, and then god gets involved and muddies everything up. Because now, you’re not just paying attention to what you did and how it affected others and how it made you feel, you’re also thinking about what this supernatural being is going to do to you because of the act, whether it’s going to mess up your chances to wear wings and play a harp someday, whether you can consider yourself a good person or not anymore, what rituals etc. you’re going to have to undertake in order to consider yourself a good person again, and have you noticed how entirely self-involved all of this reflection is?
If you think about it, guilt and shame are pretty self-involved. They’re unpleasant, they feel like a punishment, they feel necessary and deserved. But in the end that’s just more mental energy you’re spending on you and your feelings, and less you’re spending on what you can do differently next time and how you can genuinely make it up to them.
Guilt is a waste of time. You don’t need guilt to make you want to do better. We all have that drive, the drive to be better than we are. Cut out the middleman and channel it. Being a good person makes you feel good. That’s why you should do it. Treating others poorly makes you feel bad. That’s why you shouldn’t do it. Don’t waste time on any other convolutions or explanations. Those two are enough.
We all want to be perfect right now, and we all have a sneaking suspicion that we’re supposed to be…that we could be, if only we didn’t keep fucking it up.
It’s been an important part of my journey forgiving myself for the stuff I’m not good at already, for the things I don’t know but wish I did, for the mistakes I keep making. You knew what you knew; can’t change that. The only thing you can change is how much energy you put into knowing next time. You learn at the rate that you learn. No reason to beat yourself up about it. The only thing you can change is how you approach learning, how much time you spend, how creative you are about it.
It’s the sphere of influence. Don’t stress about what you can’t change. It just keeps you from changing what you can.
The better you get at doing this for yourself (“oops, ok, didn’t like that but it’s cool, how do I do better next time?”) the better you get at doing it for others. That guy who just chewed you out for getting in the wrong line? Chances are he’s doing the best he can do right now, or the best he knows how–so he must really be going through something. Brush it off and give him the benefit of the doubt.
And the best part? The less judgment you pass on others for the ways they fall short in your life, the less judgment you imagine them to be passing on you, and the more and more peace of mind you attain as you strive to better yourself. After all, if you’re always trying and observing yourself and being aware of others and learning, you’re really and truly doing the best that you can, and instead of defending that, you can just hold that for yourself, hold it in yourself, use it to feel calm and confident. Adjust course when it stops being true. And then sit back and enjoy being as right as you can possibly be at any given time–it’s a nice feeling.