COPING WITH SLANDERS & TOXIC GOSSIPS

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X’MAS MESSAGE FOR WOUNDED PEOPLE- USE SIMPLICITY AS YOUR NEW GUIDEPOST DURING THIS SACRED SEASON TO FIND CONTENTMENT, INNER PEACE & REAL JOY IN THE MIDST OF ADVERSITY AND SUFFERING.

 

Simplicity should be the hallmark of all Christmas seasons.

The world of today is tottering on the verge of financial and economic chaos with massive unemployment in the West. Against this bleak global environment and background, simplicity has become an essential life skill cum virtue for the ordinary person. Once, a person has recast his negative perception into a positive one, then he/ she will be able to keep calm in the eyes of the financial storm that is threatening to tear up the global economic structures.

How do we develop simplicity as our core value in life?

“Life is basically pretty simple…
We can, however, make it very complicated. There’s no straight line that can’t be made crooked, not easy task that can’t be made hard, no clear statement that can’t be obscured… Even Victor Serebriakoff, (President of Mensa) said,
`Unfortunately, intelligence is no guarantee against stupidity.’ But there’s a direct path out of all these needless entanglements, a simple way back to simplicity…
We don’t have to get lost in a dizzying array of choices. The 13th century philosopher-monk, William of Ockham, once remarked, `Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.’ Ockham’s Razor- cuts through all needlessly complex explanations of a given set of data and, till proven otherwise, assumes the simplest explanation to be true. In the same way, we can cut through all needlessly complex responses to a given life experience and, till proven otherwise, assume the simplest response to be the best.”
(an extract from my scrap-book, Food for Thought- author unknown)

Simplicity was one of the main pillars of Christian living for many centuries until the last five decades and it was the distinguishing characteristic of the life of Jesus. Unfortunately, this great quality has been significantly eroded in modern times when most people are infected by the toxic virus of consumerism and severely aggravated by greed and envy. As a result of this prevalent spiritual infection, the mass media via the internet, TV & printed media advertisements are designed to encourage us to climb the social ladder and `follow the successful or better-attired Joneses’.

`In a world of appearances, be sure to weigh the underlying substance.’ Stephen C. Paul
What do you think Jesus would say to our present lifestyle of `collect and accumulate’ as much of material things and wealth as possible?
I don’t think Jesus would say anything apart from two simple words- `follow me.’
Yes, if we want to follow Jesus, look at his lifestyle- a perfect model of simplicity.
He was born in a manger, by the roadside. His attires were simple and few.
His food was simple. He walked from place to place preaching and healing sick people.
His most luxurious mode of transport was the donkey that carried him into Jerusalem.
His travel accommodation was given free by his disciples.
Right until the very end, he died by the roadside on the cross.

In reality, simplicity is much more than just appearances that can be measured in terms of material and worldly things. Hugh Prather enlightens us further by sharing his insight:
“Simplicity is a characteristic of mind and cannot be judged by appearances. It is an integration, a stability, a settledness, a straightforwardness, a purity of mind that is often expressed in a simpler lifestyle- a simpler diet, a more orderly routine, a more intelligent use of time, less clutter, less financial chaos, fewer involvements- in other words,
less world, more peace.”
Yes, simplicity would be inevitably followed by more inner peace because one’s life would be made less cluttered by the complications of modern living. When there is less world demands in our lives, then we will find more quality time to focus on our family relationships and on our spiritual needs. Then we will be able to focus on the core elements in our lives. What are the non-negotiable elements of your life?
What are the things you absolutely must have and do so that you can feel that you have lived your life and not wasted it? The well-known author, Harald Kushner, provides an appropriate answer for us to ponder, “What’s non-negotiable – what’s important to us that gives meaning and balance to our lives- is different at different times. So we can expect the particulars to change as we change. But our determination to have them should not waver.”
Living simply is not easy. The goal of simplicity calls us to turn away from the goals of much of our culture. Living simply may call us to draw away from long-held associations with some friends and neighbors. It may mean giving up things and ways of being what we have enjoyed… Living simply also means being more intentional about everything and being vulnerable and open to the wonders of nature.

During this Christmas, Jesus calls us to live a more simple life and putting more love into what we are doing. With a simple life, we have more quality time to make spiritual connection with Jesus to enhance our inner peace and joy.
Yes, simplicity would be one of those valuable gifts that Jesus would very much like us to offer to him during this Christmas day. And in return, Jesus would like to give us his blessings of `less world, more peace.’ In other words, Jesus never allows you to outdo him in generosity- he would give you an `ang pow; (gift packets given on festive occasions) of rare blessings – his unconditional love and real inner peace. In our broken world today, these gifts are as rare as diamonds and they cannot be purchased with any amount of money. With simplicity, we can take good care of our external needs of our life without succumbing to the pressures and demands of the world. And with love and peace, we can cater adequately to our spiritual needs. This is the sure formula for an authentic life.     What more can we ask of God?

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WHAT IS THE REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS FOR THOSE PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM WOUNDED SELF ESTEEM & DEEP SHAME?

Christmas has always been a unique season for sowing interesting unconventional seeds of insights to enliven and rejuvenate one’s life- both worldly and spiritual ones. If we can succeed in reaping some wholesome insights during this sacred season, then we will certainly become more holistic and wholesome in our lives that may become much more meaningful and authentic.

Since this is a season that is closely intertwined with Jesus Christ, I will dwell on some of my personal insights that are inspired by him. As a student of history who has studied the historical sources of the history of Israel, I am convinced that Jesus was a real historical figure who has much more authenticity and validity than many other historical figures such as Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, Plato or Aristotle etc.  Even the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (c37-c100) write about Jesus in the `Antiquities of the Jews’. 

In the first passage, called the Testimonium Flavianum,  Flavius Josephus wrote: “About this time came Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is appropriate to call him a man. For he was a performer of paradoxical feats, a teacher of people who accept the unusual with pleasure, and he won over many of the Jews and also many Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon the accusation of the first men amongst us, condemned him to be crucified, those who had formerly loved him did not cease to follow him, for he appeared to them on the third day, living again, as the divine prophets foretold, along with a myriad of other marvellous things concerning him. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

Charles Guignebert (1867–1939), Professor of the History of Christianity at the Sorbonne, maintained that the “conclusions which are justified by the documentary evidence may be summed up as follows: Jesus was born somewhere in Galilee in the time of the Emperor Augustus, of a humble family, which included half a dozen or more children besides himself.”.  He adds elsewhere “there is no reason to suppose he was not executed” (Adapted from the Wikipedia).

In the history of mankind, many great men appeared in the past to enlighten us on the way to become better human beings. They have made great contributions to the betterment of mankind. One such wonderful man is Gautama Buddha who has impressed me deeply with his wonderful concepts of `awareness’ and `compassion for others’. Another great person is Lao-Tze, the founder of the Taoist philosophy. has given mankind three great gifts- simplicity, patience and compassion for yourself. Confucius has given the Chinese people the  social and political infrastructure to construct a harmonious society and civilization that has endured a few thousand years until today. Other Oriental philosophers have also contributed valuable ideas and insights towards the building of social and moral values that enhance the building of a strong human community. Most of the insights that we have inherited from these religious pioneers or sages are based on the benefit of the community at the expense of the individual human being. As a result of the strong social and  communal networks, the individual who has fallen through the loopholes for various reasons that are associated with the violation of the social norms, will be severely punished with the social weapons of shaming, social rejection or gossips / slanders etc. There is very little sympathy or support from the community for those individuals who are perceived to have violated the rules and social norms.

However, Jesus stands out among the small group of religious pioneers as the truly radical reformer who came into the world to fight for the `lonely sheep that has gone astray’. He did not worry about the ninety-nine sheep in the flock when Jesus went out to search and rescue the one lost sheep. Jesus provided the world with the importance and true value of the individual soul when he enlightened his disciples with this injunction: `what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul?’ He further emphasized on the importance of love as a landmark of Christian discipleship- ‘Love one another as I love you; by this will others know that you are my disciples.’

By his various words and actions during his three short years of ministry, Jesus showed himself to be the protector of the poor, the sick and the wounded in self-esteem. He was accused by his enemies as being the `friend of sinners’ because he mingled with the prostitutes and dined with the public sinners like the publicans-  the dregs of society that had been socially and morally rejected by the Jewish society. Jesus further rationalized his moral and social stance by proclaiming that he had come as a physician for the sick and the wounded, not for the healthy because the latter did not need the physician. In this context, we can see that Jesus was truly living an authentic life of a Messiah who came to stand up for the oppressed (spiritually) and the sick (physically and psychologically).

Many scholars have overlooked this aspect of the ministry of Jesus. He came to challenge the oppressive social and moral values of the strong male-dominated Jewish society of his time. No job would be rated lower than that of a prostitute at that time. Yet when a prostitute was caught red-handed in her act of prostitution, the Jewish mob of self-righteous men, wanted to punish her with stoning according to their established custom. Nobody in his right mind, would have stood up for the poor prostitute against the mob by breaking with the social convention and custom.  Yet, Jesus defended the poor woman, a public sinner, and took a huge risk of the uncertain social consequences of being involved in a scandal. There was so little to gain and so much to lose. Jesus stood to lose his integrity as a religious leader by getting involved with such a shameful wounded human being. We must bear in mind that shame is an extremely radioactive substance. Anyone who touches it will be tainted in some way. Jesus certainly knew about this when he stretched out his neck to fight for the prostitute. Why? Because Jesus loved the one lost sheep that had gone astray. Because by this symbolic act, Jesus stood up for the oppressed women. Because the lost individual was worth more than the world in the eyes of Jesus. Because that was precisely the reason why he was born on Christmas day. Because without the sinner, God would not send his Son as the Messiah to be born  on Christmas Day. Above all, Jesus came to proclaim that God loves all sinners on an unconditional basis- no ifs or buts; He simply loves us as we are in spite of our woundedness and unworthiness. This is the real meaning of Christmas.

May the above insights bless your life with true joy and inner peace this Christmas season.