Recently I heard Christian people on the radio talking about the Ten Commandments in Biblical Scripture. I’m not a Christian woman but find their conversation deeply inspiring. The men were saying the language (I forget which one but for this post it’s not very important anyway. I think it may be Hebrew?) directly translates into English as “Do not steal” but often we hear\read “thou shalt not steal.” The men said this second phrase “thou shalt not steal” is much more powerful than “do not steal” and before they started explaining I was a bit confused. At first glance, at least to me, a command such as “Do not steal” seems more direct and assertive, even threatening, than “you should not steal.” Telling me not to do something can be an implicit threat or warning “Do not…or else..” where telling me I shouldn’t do something seems a bit more passive or laid back. It doesn’t seem like a command or demand. It’s more like just someone’s little opinion.
I’m not a big fan of telling others or myself what we should or should not do. I think “should” can be too limiting and contribute to feelings of failing or too much pressure. But soon I realized what these Christian men were talking about and it’s very powerful and can apply to us all, not just Christian and other religious people.
“Should” or “should not” is more like an internal thing while someone else’s commands, laws, rules, threats, abuse, opinion…..are external and cannot affect us if we do not let them. “Do not….because I said so” is authoritarian and someone else’s rule slapped onto us. It may or may not be a good rule but it’s external and we can rise above whereas “should” is something moral, internal. Of course someone else’s opinion of “should” is external and “should” is subjective but it’s more of an internal truth.
There are some things, in my opinion, we really should not do, like kill innocent beings, steal, spread vicious gossip, sexually assault….to name a few. That’s my truth and it’s more powerful than someone else telling me not to. It’s illegal for me to kill an innocent human but it runs deeper than the law telling me not to; I truly believe I should not kill an innocent person (or any innocent sentient being) and if I ever did I would have a bigger problem than being in legal trouble. I would have an internal struggle knowing I did something very wrong that resulted in the pain or ending of someone else. It’s not illegal to kill most insects at least where I live, and I don’t negatively judge those who do, but I do not kill them on purpose and when I do accidentally, I have a struggle within. And there are occasions people said things to me meant to have an effect I did not allow it to have. There are occasions I experienced domestic violence and was physically forced to do or not do something that wasn’t my choice but I did not let it destroy me and know it’s not a reflection of who I am and that this life is still beautiful with so many beautiful things and I kept my mind calm even though externally it was chaos. When I am abused the abuser is degrading itself, not me. Murderers, sexual predators, bullies, those engaging in vicious gossip only degrade themselves not those they hurt or try to hurt. We may be hurt, broken, devastated, traumatized, petrified, bleeding, bruised…..but we are not as destroyed as those who tried to destroy us. And we can stand up & rise again.