Personal Responsibility is a large part of our Spiritualist beliefs. As Spiritualists we do not accept the theory of vicarious atonement - the belief that Jesus was crucified to atone for (or fix) our sins. This is the basis of most Christian beliefs. As Spiritualists we believe that each one of us is personally responsible for our deeds, our thoughts and our actions. This is a very "large charge" which plays out in our daily lives in many ways. Most are small and seemingly insignificant, but still each is a direct reflection of who and what we really are. As an example, the other evening at a restaurant I was given an extra dollar in change. This was simply a human error on the part of the waitress. That one dollar bill would neither make me nor break me, but it wasn't my dollar. How many times in the past - and yes, I have been guilty of this - has this happened to you? Did you take the dollar? Or did you accept the waitress's error or mischarged item on a grocery list and let the incident go, saying or thinking, Well, Kroger's (Meijer's, Wal-Mart, whomever) has more money than I do and it won't break them. Their prices are too high anyway. It was a lucky break for me, though! Well, that simply isn't right. I gave the waitress back the dollar and called her attention to her error. That way neither she nor the register would come up short at check out that night.
I must admit, I wouldn't have always reacted in that manner. I would have taken the dollar, which again, wouldn't have made me richer or been the difference in whether I would have eaten or gone without a meal. I would have felt "lucky" to have that extra buck. Now I realize taking the dollar would have made me poorer. Not in my pocketbook, but in my soul. It is these little "tests" that occur in small ways that only God and I know about that spell out who I am and how well I live my beliefs.
Personal responsibility, yes, a large charge. It shows up in many ways. Do you look at someone and think gosh they sure are fat. That is being judgmental and who are we - or more to the point who am I - to judge someone else?
We are all human beings and there are things that simply irk us. Take the current influx of people from other countries, who do not speak English. I have to say I do not like the use of - for example - Spanish - in phone menus. Why should I have to press "1" for English? I live here and English is the language of this country. Yet, it irks me. I think every one should learn to speak our language in this country. (And I do believe people should try to learn English if they make the choice for whatever reason to come to live in this country). On the other hand, until they are able to master the language, I don't know if they are really attempting to adapt or not and I should not judge them. It is a little thing and a personal prejudice on my part but being nasty or catty about it doesn't really hurt them - it is a strike against me because I lowered myself to make a nasty remark or entertained a disparaging thought about them. Maybe they really are struggling to adapt and I am not aware of it. It would be difficult to go to another country and immediately pick up the language. I would try to do that if I chose to live in another country, but I am also certain I would fail miserably for a while. I would appreciate any courtesy or attempt at understanding the people in that country would extend to me and I should do the same toward those who come to live here. It is that good old Golden Rule again: "Whatsoever you would that others should do unto you, do ye also unto them." We mouth those words every time we read or recite our Declaration of Principles every Sunday we are in church but how much do we think about that Principle during the week? Who do I really harm by sending out any nasty thought? Me! Only ME.
It is difficult to break the habits of a lifetime. We grew up in a time when certain words and thoughts were okay but with the progression of the group of souls of which we are a part, we have learned to raise our consciousness. We no longer use the formerly acceptable "N" word. We are more sensitive to ethnic differences and that is a good thing. There was a time when that word was commonly used. I do not wish to offend anyone but will relate an experience I had many years ago when I lived in the Gulfport, Mississippi area. This was before the marches and sit-ins of the 1960s. This was before Rosa Parks or Reverend Martin Luther King. This was before ethnic diversity training had been heard of much less begun to be taught.
I was a 19 year old Air Force wife, my husband was stationed at the Kessler Air Force base in Biloxi, MS. I was going to the town grocery store for a few items. In small towns everyone goes out on Saturday to do their "trading" - or grocery shopping. Downtown was crowded with local people standing around and talking in groups. Auto traffic was bumper to bumper. I was sitting second in line at a main street intersection behind a black man whose car had stalled in the very middle of the intersection. No one could move in any direction. Everyone was honking their horns. The man was frustrated and got out of his car - I think to go lift the hood. He certainly didn't plan for his vehicle to stop running in the middle of the street! What I did next I thought was a solution to the problem and would be helpful to everyone. I simply asked the man if he would like me to push him across the intersection (to get his car out of the way). In Gulfport at that time parking downtown was perpendicular to the curb. He was very pleased that I would offer and he coasted right across the intersection and into a parking slot. That allowed me and everyone stuck in traffic to start to move again. Some people on the corner had watched this whole small incident, noticed my Ohio auto tags and several men yelled loudly at me. "You can tell a nigger-loving-damned Yankee no matter where they go."
That is a true story. It made me feel differently about the people I met who lived in the South at that time. As I said, this occurred in the late 1950s prior to the marches, sit-ins and other demonstrations which began in the 1960s. I am proud that the consciousness of our whole nation has been raised toward Americans of African ancestry. Black people. They are human beings the same as we are. They were made by the same God who made me. Likewise any person of any nationality different from my own was created by the same loving God and everyone deserves total respect. I became more empathetic toward others because of that experience. It was actually life changing. Personal responsibility. A big issue on a daily basis which evidences itself in small ways. How do we react to it? What do we learn from it? How do we grow from it?
No one is perfect. I most certainly am not but I am more aware of many things than I was earlier in my life. A part of this awareness has come through the lessons life teaches me. Another part of that change has come from the awareness and elevated consciousness and growth this entire part of the world has experienced. Soul growth. Isn't that a raised consciousness? Hasn't our whole culture been raised in many aspects during our lifetime?
If we truly believe in personal responsibility isn't it because we desire soul growth? We desire to be more like Jesus? We desire to grow back to being one with the God Force? Aren't Soul Growth and Personal Responsibility synonymous?
If we try to live our beliefs we need to work on thought control, tolerance of others. Love yourself and love your neighbor as yourself. It is certainly not a small task. I pray we are all up to working on it and really taking Personal Responsibility a bit more seriously in our daily lives. Today's subject was just to provide some food for thought.
i would like to end with the words to a favorite song. The title is An Evening Prayer
If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way,
Dear Lord, Forgive.
If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I offend some other thru the strain,
Dear Lord, Forgive
If I have been perverse or hard or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold,
When thou has given me some fort to hold,
Dear Lord, Forgive.
Forgive the sins I have confessed to thee:
Forgive the secret sins I do not see,
O, guide me, love me and my keeper be
Dear Lord, Amen.