If one were to ask a random bystander “What is love?” it is likely more often than not that the answer would start with “It is a feeling of …“. When we think of love we often first think of the emotion of love. The feeling. But love can also be found in our thoughts and beliefs as well as our actions. These three components, actions, thoughts, and feelings form a well-known feedback loop in psychotherapy known as The Cognitive Triangle. It is shown below.
I have spoken before about the essence of our soul, for it is that which will be judged in the hereafter. But what does that mean in the context of the previous figure? Part of the answer lies in a previous post that stated actions are primarily considered over beliefs on our day of judgement. I believe the same is true of feelings. I believe a loving and merciful god allows us to feel in any manner without judgement. But when actions become abhorrent, thoughts and feelings along with a complete picture of a person’s existence will be examined in order to help render judgement.
Why the emphasis on actions over thoughts and feelings? Because actions are what change our World and affect the people around us. To borrow an analogy from a great statesman, they are the pebbles that when tossed into the sea of humanity can create ripples that radiate outward to join with others and bring forth a wave that impacts everything in their path.
The implications are stark and it conflicts with previous scripture. To illustrate Jesus Christ said:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder”, and “anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement … You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 (NIV)
Take it even further back to the Old Testament when Yahweh delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses. Those commandments made it a sin to covet a neighbor’s wife or goods. Not an action. But a feeling alone was considered a sin.
And now I am saying ignore these passages? Ignore these words from Jesus and Yahweh?
Yes. I am.
These words were meant for a different time. For that scripture came before sacred love. In an era of sacred love we have the freedom to think, believe, and feel as we wish. What informs my belief in this? A feeling. A feeling of The Greatest Love’s anger during delivery of the eighth message. But even Jesus Christ, despite His previously cited words, was angered in the temple at the usurers. Anger is a powerful emotion, but containing that emotion to channel an appropriate response is what is important.
As for lust. The feeling of sexual desire alone? It can represent the spark that can keep us engaged long enough for the beginnings of a deep love to take hold. Now certainly lust can grow to become unhealthy such as when it controls our other feelings and traps us in a world of sexual objectification and fantasy. But sexual desire alone as a sin? And then conflating such lust with adultery? Such conflation is not fair in this age of sacred love. The former is an emotion we have limited control over. The latter is an action we are completely responsible for. One does not need to lead to the other.
The Greatest Love no longer polices our thoughts or feelings. They have given us the freedom to experience the full spectrum of human emotions without judgement but with that freedom comes the responsibility to only act with love in our heart.
The cognitive cycle in the figure above makes clear that our thoughts and feelings influence our actions. But we are not mindless beasts doomed to an eternity of negative behaviors, dictated by our negative thoughts and feelings. We can break free of such negative cycles by controlling our actions in spite of our thoughts and emotions. Those positive behaviors will then feedback into our thoughts and emotions lifting them up to start a more positive cycle. We have the free will to do so but it can be challenging. It may require the help of family and friends or in more serious cases mental health professionals. And if we cannot break free of the cycle, I believe, short of mental illness, we alone are responsible for any negative actions that result. Such behaviors impact the people and World around us, and so we must be held accountable.
Consider the example of hate. Will a loving god ignore hateful thoughts and feelings assuming they never influenced a person’s actions? Is it even possible for a person with feelings and thoughts of hate in their heart to achieve the highest levels of love?
I believe so. It may be understandable for a person to have feelings of hate toward another. The feeling toward the unrepentant killer of a loved one for example. A person so grievously harmed may hate the perpetrator but would they act out in some negative way? It is quite conceivable that the answer is no. And so we have a situation where a person feels hate because they, and a loved one, have been grievously harmed but have not acted on that emotion. Should they be judged negatively because of their feelings? Should The Greatest Love pass judgement on this feeling of hate alone? No. We are free to feel hate without judgement. Yes it is a powerful emotion reserved for the most extreme of circumstances, but it can also be a very human step in a healthy grieving process. All human emotions serve a purpose. To deny them is to deny our humanity. But it is how we act, and move forward, in the midst of such emotions that reflect our true character.
The above example may sound radical. Some of us have been taught from an early age that we should never hate. But I believe there are extreme situations where hate can help to heal an injured soul. But I also believe it should be a transitory emotional state on the pathway towards forgiveness. And it is the act of forgiveness or lack thereof that will be judged. Not the feelings. Not the thoughts. The actions.
Let’s continue on with this example. What if the hate is racist? The same rules must apply. The Greatest Love does not parse emotions to decide which are acceptable and which are not. You are entitled to feel the full spectrum of human emotions and for any reason even when those reasons are based on ignorance or worse. But the catch here is that racist hatred is likely to be acted upon in some manner: a statement to a friend, a post to a website, or perhaps a subtle change in how you treat a neighbor or co-worker. All of these actions will be assessed, and judged.
The revelations, comfort, and love found within the arms of The Greatest Love in the heavens can help to wash away the hatred, ignorance, and pain. But there is still free will in the heavens and our hearts must be open to such healing. We must want to have the hate washed away. We must choose to open our hearts and forgive. And if we cannot forgive what then? Then I believe we will be judged on our inaction.
Yes, I believe, not forgiving is still an aberration of love.
Jesus’ example is clear to me in this regard. Even after he was tortured and hung dying on the cross he asked God to forgive his crucifiers. Even when they did not show remorse or ask for such forgiveness. I believe the centrality of forgiveness in Jesus’ message was divinely revealed to him and continues to apply today. We must find a way to release the hatred not just for the sake of those who have done us harm, but for ourselves. Not just because this is what Jesus taught us to do. But because by releasing the hatred we open our hearts more widely and, I believe, allow ourselves to love more deeply. Forgiving helps to mend a tortured soul.
Our inability to forgive can hold us back from reaching a higher love. And we cannot forgive a person if we hate them. We must let go of the hate as a first step on the journey towards forgiveness. But letting go can be difficult. For example, a person may hate their abusive partner but fears for their children’s safety if they leave. The incidences of abuse continue and retraumatize anew every time. This situation never provides an opportunity to let go of the hate. And so the journey towards forgiveness remains blocked. Will The Greatest Love be merciful toward that person’s inability to forgive, even when held in Their arms in the heavens? Yes. Everything I believe about my god leads me to such a conclusion.
And so if after being grievously harmed we cannot release the hate and find it in our heart to forgive, find solace in the knowledge that The Greatest Love is a loving god of mercy. And so hate, after the circumstances surrounding its manifestation has been divinely judged, may not prevent us from achieving a higher love.
Just as love can exist along the pathway to Hell so too can hatred exist at the footsteps of Heaven. For the heavens are not as simple as good versus evil, or love versus hate. They instead contain human souls in all of their infinite complexity.
This is what I believe.