I recently considered the markers we use to identify ourselves when meeting someone new. The most common descriptors seem to include what our work is, where we are from, what our race/heritage is, what religion we belong to, and what our family situation is. Of late, there has also been an increase in identifying oneself by one’s sexual and gender identity.
But why are these the sorts of markers that we use? Do these really represent the most fundamental qualities of a person? If I told you what I do for work, does that really tell you much about how I think and feel? If I disclosed my sexual preferences, would that really give you an accurate window into my soul?
I don’t think so. In my experience, most of these categories have little, if anything, to do with who a person is at their core. Really, I think we only use these because they tend to represent the smallest minorities that we belong to. The mentality seems to be “if you know what is most unique about me, you will know who I really am,” but I think this is a false assumption. Sometimes, it is the broadest of definitions that actually get the closest to the truth.
For example, the identification that I am “a son of God,” hardly puts me into a minority, but it is much more fundamental to who I really am. Descriptions like “I am a Software Developer,” or “my family is from Norway,” put me into smaller buckets, but those buckets are pretty shallow. Being “a son of God” has me in a bucket that is very wide, but also very deep.
I think it is therefore more useful to take those broader, wide-bucket categories, and then go deep with them. If I really wanted to introduce myself in a way that gave people a window into my soul, I might say something like “I am one of God’s creations, and I, in turn, share my Maker’s passion for creating new things. And not only am I a creation, but also a re-creation. I am one who has been redeemed by Christ, brought back from an addiction and loneliness that I thought I would never see the end of.”
I’ve spent the last three days saying that we need to be able to talk about the difficult issues of our day without being afraid of one another. Yes, we should be respectful and considerate, but that doesn’t mean we have to neuter our communication. If we feel strongly about something, we should be able to express our convictions with emphasis, but without becoming hostile. We also need to encourage others to know that we can listen to their differing opinions without demonizing them. We should be able to let them know that even if we strongly disagree, we can still view them as a brother or a sister and a friend.
And in that spirit, I think it is only fair that I should lay my own cards on the table. I’ve always avoided being explicit in my political and social leanings, partly because I didn’t want to offend anyone, and partly because I didn’t want to invite unpleasant reactions. But now I feel that those fears are the exact things that are preventing us from having these important conversations in our society. Furthermore, I would imagine several of you have already made assumptions about my positions and perspectives, and if your assumptions are off the mark I wouldn’t want to feel that I am deceiving you.
If my convictions are different from what you expected, if they contradict the image you had built up of me through my prior posts, if they challenge your own perspectives, then hopefully this will help to illustrate my point that even those of differing opinions can still be of value. I expect plenty of my readers will have different feelings on several of the subjects I am about to list out, and I want to make clear that I don’t begrudge any of you who feel differently being here and remaining a part of this community. All are welcome to come here, even if they disagree, so long as they speak with respect.
I am a traditional conservative.
In matters related to family and society, I believe that marriage is to be between a man and a woman, and that for the good of our children and society, sexual relations should be reserved for that marriage. I believe that both parents should be equally committed to whatever children they conceive. I believe that this return to basic family values would in-and-of-itself eradicate the vast majority of every social ill we see. I believe that the transgender movement is in opposition to basic truth and should be dismissed as such. I believe that pornography is merely another form of prostitution, that it is incredibly harmful to both the individuals who create it and those who consume it, and it should be prohibited. I believe that men and women each face their own unique challenges, and each deserves equal attention. I believe that the life that begins at conception is sacred and should absolutely be protected.
In matters of race and immigration, I am opposed to any notion of white superiority, but I am equally opposed to any notion of white inferiority. I believe that all races should be treated equally and fairly, that none are fundamentally more worthy or more problematic than the other, and none of them should receive special treatment nor restriction. I am proud that my country, the United States of America, has long had the defining virtue of being a haven for the refugee, the migrant, and the poor. Protocol and process are necessary here to prevent abuse of generosity, but I am anxious that we do not lose sight of this noble quality that has so long defined us.
In matters of crime, I believe that criminals should face justice for their wrongs, even up to capital punishment in the most extreme cases. For those who are incarcerated, every effort should be made to reform and educate those individuals, for their own betterment as well as that of society. I believe that we should resist the normalization of both recreational and illegal drugs.
I also believe that we need to take care of our planet, our environment, and the miraculous species God has given to us, but that we should do so in manners and degrees that do not force the poorest to remain in deprivation. I also believe that there are forces trying to undo our religious liberty, to silence specific statements of faith, and that this effort undermines the foundation of our society and must be resisted.
There. I think that covers all the main “hot topics,” and there’s enough opinions there that just about everyone should be able to find something they disagree with! You’ve already had time with this blog to get to know my heart, so does where I stand on these issues align with what you thought of me? If not, are we still going to be able to be friends and explore spirituality and truth together? For the sake of my faith in humanity, I certainly hope so!
I’ve talked about the awkward, self-filtering way I tend to approach “hot topic” issues in my day-to-day interactions and how I believe this stems from the vicious manner these issues are debated online. No one wants to be their most forthcoming when they are afraid of explosive anger, personal attacks, or even death threats! However, I have also acknowledged that this probably isn’t an accurate expectation to have of those I associate with on a daily basis. Just as I know that I can still value their friendship even if they have different perspectives then me, I should be able to trust that they can feel the same towards me.
Signals of Prejudice)
However, even if we manage to separate our expectations of the real world from the virtual, we still need to learn how to speak in a way that fosters positive communication. There are certain terms which I have noticed are likely to set people with the opposite opinions immediately on edge. They are things that signify to the other person that you are prejudiced against them, and that is sure to make their interaction with you that much less sincere and constructive.
So, for example, if you are more liberal, and you start throwing out “phobic” terms, such as “transphobe” or “homophobe,” then you are immediately downgrading the conversation. These terms are almost always applied incorrectly. “Phobic” is a suffix that means a person has an irrational, panic-stricken fear of something. There might very well be people who have a panicked reaction when in the presence of a homosexual or transgender person, but I think we all know that this is virtually never the case when this term is applied. It is a stamp put on anyone who is disagrees with liberal movements for any reason at all.
On the other side, some of the more conservative voices have started overusing the term “groomer.” This, of course, is a term that accuses another person of intentionally sexualizing minors so that they may become victims of abuse. This is an extremely serious claim, and it ought to be wielded with an equally serious mindset. Sadly, as with the “phobic” terms being applied to those on the right, “groomer” is starting to be thrown against everyone who happens to have a liberal attitude.
If you use either of these terms thoughtlessly, you are signaling to the other side that you have a reductive view of other people. You are telling them that you will lump anyone that feels differently with you into the most extreme and sinister categories so that you may dismiss them without any real consideration. And maybe that’s not what you meant to communicate at all. Maybe you were just imitating the vernacular that you’ve been taught without realizing how it is likely to be received. If this the case, then you ought to take some time to consider whether you are subconsciously discounting the other person without even hearing what it is they are trying to say. Frankly, we all do this to some extent, so there isn’t any shame in realizing that we have made this mistake and then correcting ourselves.
Though, on the other hand, perhaps you really do mean to categorize the entire side as pure evil. Perhaps you think that anyone who is on the other side of the aisle is not merely confused or misguided. Perhaps you don’t think they have any good points to share, or that they are trying to gain attention for an issue you might have overlooked. Perhaps you genuinely believe that they are all monsters that only seek to harm our society, and that they are past reclamation, and thus you have no intention of having a civil discourse with them. But if you’ve taken the time to read this series of posts to this point, I imagine that that is not the case for you. If you care at all about the trouble we have in communication, like I do, then that would suggest that you hope it could get better. And if you hope it could get better, then that would mean that there are good people on both sides who can approach these heavy conversations with decency and composure if we just start to foster that sort of attitude.
I certainly think that this is the case. And if it isn’t, then the world is much worse off than I realized and horrible things are inevitable!
Yesterday I started talking about the tension I notice whenever “hot topic” issues like transgenderism, abortion, or racial differences come up. I have seen in these instances how I go through mental gymnastics, trying to sanitize everything I say, terrified that I will utter something that other side will demonize me for. I live in fear of coworkers, friends, and even family members, often deferring my opinions because it seems there is so much to lose by expressing my convictions. And while I know that not everyone is the same as me, I’m sure that if I’ve had these feelings, there are probably plenty of others who have as well.
And this is a real problem, because it is imperative that we be able to have these conversations as a society. In fact, even more important than talking about than the important issues of our day is having the ability to talk about them. Being able to have the conversation is obviously the prerequisite to then having it. So let’s talk about what it is that makes this discourse so difficult.
What Are You Scared Of?)
After giving it some thought, I realized that when I think about people debating these important issues, I typically don’t picture two friends talking on a bench in a park. That’s not where these arguments typically occur today, they occur online, where faceless avatars scream at their opposition, assume the absolute worst in each another, and wish literal death upon anybody who dares to have a different opinion. I believe that the online forums have trained us to hold great anxiety when discussing these issues in person, because our experience has been that these subjects bring up the most hostile and abusive vitriol. If you were talking to another person face-to-face and they exhibited the same animalistic rage that you see online, then you might genuinely start to fear for your life!
But it probably isn’t accurate to assume that the friends and family and coworkers that we speak with in person would show the same unbridled rage that we see online. At least I certainly hope not! In person, I believe the majority of people are civil and restrained, even when expressing their deeply-held beliefs. But if we can’t express those deeply-held beliefs in person because we are afraid, then we suppress ourselves, become frustrated, and perhaps take that out on some internet forum, ironically perpetuating the same image of anger that keeps everyone silent in real life. We are caught in a vicious cycle, and the only solution that I see is to start challenging the way that we assume the worst in real-life people.
And if I am wrong, and actually our society is so far gone that calmly and respectfully speaking my mind in public is going to get me injured by one of the people I thought I was close to, then frankly it’s about time we had a few martyrs to bring attention to how bad things have become!
Losing a Friend)
Of course, there is a wide range of possibilities between a conversation being a positive experience and it being mortally dangerous! There are all manner of other negative outcomes that might more realistically come to pass, possibilities that still frighten us into silence. The most obvious of these is the loss of a friendship we valued. It is possible that challenging another’s deeply-held beliefs, even when done with kindness and respect, might cause them to determine that they can no longer associate with you.
That is a genuine fear, and one not to be treated lightly. The people that I am close to are very important to me, as well they should be, and I will truly mourn if I lose any of them because they could not abide my convictions. But it is selfish for me to prioritize my own comfort and happiness over doing my part to help the world sort out truth from error.
Also, even if it ends up being misplaced, I believe that I should have more faith in my friends. I know that I have different beliefs than they do, but I still enjoy their company, value their insights, and want to be their friend. I don’t know if they can reciprocate that, but I should give them the chance to do so. And frankly, I’m not being a very good friend if I am maintaining our relationship on false pretenses. There will always be an element of deceit if I know I am concealing part of myself from them, and that will prevent the friendship from ever reaching its full potential.
I expressed my intention to resume my verse-by-verse scripture study, but something came up, and I need to go over it this week. The verse-by-verse study will begin next Monday.
What came up was a stressful and anxious conversation at work. It was pronounced enough to make me stop and consider what was going on, and what it all meant. The conversation started innocuous enough, my coworkers and I were discussing the new Hogwarts Legacy game that recently released. Everything was fun and light-hearted until one of my coworkers expressed disappointment that this otherwise appealing game was tied to a “transphobe” like J. K. Rowling. Another coworker challenged that statement, defending Rowling, and the two had an extremely awkward and tense exchange.
Their discussion was by no means insulting or disparaging. In fact, both of the coworkers spoke very deliberately and haltingly, couching their statements in all manner of caveats and disclaimers. I imagine that the two of them were trying to filter anything out of their speech that might escalate the disagreement. I assume so, because I was also doing that very thing. I wanted to express my own strongly-held opinions, but I was also terrified of ruining our work-friend relationships. Combing through every possible statement was mentally exhausting, and I only ended up making one small contribution to the discussion. As you might imagine, such a self-conscious and labored conversation quickly fizzled out. In less than a minute one of the other coworkers threw out a change of topic and we all clung to it like a life preserver. The tense exchange was over.
Or at least, it was over on the surface. My mind was still firmly on the experience we had just had. Why had it gone down that way? Why had it been so hard to speak? Is it really impossible to express our passionate and contrasting opinions in a way that doesn’t ruin relationships?
I know they say that politics and religion are the two things you must never talk about if you want a friendship to last, but something inside of me balks at that notion. Are we really expected to muzzle ourselves around the most important discussions of our day? Would it really be better that we reserve these conversations for flame-wars with complete strangers on the internet that accomplish nothing? No! We need to be able to have these hard discussions face-to-face with the people we have the most influence with.
Because, make no mistake, we do need influence and persuade. “Hot topic” items like transgenderism, racial differences, and abortion are the exact things that our society needs to work out today. Every society throughout all time has had their own controversial issues that they were responsible to give an answer to. Some of them handled it well and history looks at them fondly. Some of them handled it poorly and history looks at them disdainfully. Some of them completely abdicated their responsibility, turning the decision over to a select few who used that power to execute horrifying agendas. This led to the massacre of millions and decades-long regressions until the common people were finally willing to take back their voice and demand something better.
So no, these can’t be conversations that are reserved exclusively for the internet forums, or the debate halls, or the chambers of government. We, the everyday people, need to be able to engage in the conversation face-to-face, or else our chances of making the right decisions drops precipitously. If there is any takeaway from the conversation I had with my coworkers, it is that many of us are not able to talk about these all-important issues, and this is a very disturbing fact. We should all be very concerned for what it portends.
Over the rest of this week, I want to discuss this situation in more depth, and hopefully provide inspiration for us all to do the hard work that is ours to do.
I am concluding the section of this study where I examine the ways that we set others upon false foundations and all the negative consequences that follow. I’ve considered individual cases thus far, but now I want to turn my scope broader. After all, one way to prove the invalidity of a proposition is to apply it on a universal scale and then see if it maintains its original appeal. With today’s post I will hold the philosophy of the “helpful lie” to this universally-applied metric and see what the result of it is.
Applied in Reverse)
Suppose a religion were to have as one of its tenets that all other religious persuasions ought to be suppressed or destroyed. Clearly things would not work out so well for the members of that same religion if everyone else adopted the same principle towards them! It is a self-destructive policy, because it cannot be applied in reverse without destroying the originator. On the other hand, a religion having a fundamental tenet that there should be religious freedom for all others would be itself benefited and protected if the same principle were applied back to it again.
So I say to the person that believes in using beneficial lies to protect other people, you would do well to consider how you would feel if this same principle was applied back towards yourself, and also universally to all other people. You might say that you are comfortable with people telling you the same sort of lies that you tell to others, but that isn’t a fair comparison. Your idea of what is okay to lie about is your own personal opinion, so to be consistent you would have to be accepting of other people using their own judgment as to what is appropriate to lie to you about. Also, you might feel you could trust the decisions of those who are equal to you in intelligence and morality, but that also isn’t a fair comparison. You are less intelligent and moral than some of those that you lie to, so you must consider how you would feel being at the mercy of those who are less intelligent and moral than you.
Does that sound like a comfortable proposition, being subjected to the false realities concocted by the basest and meanest of society, entirely according to their own opinion and judgment? I’m certain it does not!
When one supports themself in telling a “white lie,” they give all other people permission to do the same, and that’s really not a trend that ought to be being perpetuated. On the other hand, when one firmly decides to tell the truth, they revoke the right of all others to lie. If enough of us were to insist on truth-telling for ourselves, and renounce lying on the part of others, we would likely start to see a ripple of truthfulness throughout our society. Convictions, once held by enough people, influence even those who have not become totally committed to them. And even if we don’t reach the point of mass adoption, at least those who perpetuate honesty will be living in a accordance with a principle that is constructive, not destructive.
Lies Upon Lies)
But let us go back to this notion of lies being told at all levels of our society. I have already discussed in a previous post how a lie, by its definition, separates everyone that stands upon it from the ground level of life as it really is. Everyone who believes in the lie is now out on a ledge which might break under its own weight, particularly as more and more people take residence upon it.
And now, extend that with the realization that many people who are already founded upon a lie are also telling additional lies upon it. People are exponentially multiplying the confusion, carving out more and more from the true foundation, extending ledges out upon ledges, building their deceitful worlds without any knowledge of where the center of balance even is. At some point, we will have the straw that breaks society’s back, and all will crumble in violence and chaos.
And I’m not merely saying that from a theoretical perspective, I believe the notion is borne out by a simple examination of history. I feel that these compounded lies are the only way to explain such collective insanity as was seen at Auschwitz and the Gulag. The deceit might have seemed “harmless” enough at first, a simple mischaracterization of national pride or social inequity. But then that deluded premise was compounded with faulty reasoning for how to address the issue and aggressively expanded by the masses taking hold of the idea, until an entirely untenable reality was force upon millions, killing countless of innocents and eventually collapsing the entire experiment under its own weight.
The only system which is sure to be equal and fair to everyone, the only one that is sure to be founded on solid bedrock, is the one that stands firmly on the ground of the truth. That truth may be unpleasant, and without any simple solutions, but dealing with it directly is the only possible way to make genuine progress. All other strategies are temporary structures, at times very pretty, but all of them doomed to fall.
I’ve spent this series having a pretend conversation with a person who is unsure about whether they have an addiction or not. I’ve approached the topic from different angles, providing an answer to to all of the responses I typically hear from such people. I believe that all these different angles can be grouped into two main categories, though, so let us review those.
At various times in these posts I have tried to hold a mirror up to all those that are in denial. I hope those that minimize or turn a blind eye to their weakness were able to face them more fully through this journey. I asked the person who thinks he can control his unhealthy indulgence to prove it by swearing it off entirely and seeing how it goes. I called out those who refuse to acknowledge the burdens they put on others. I invited all to take a full inventory of themselves, fearlessly tabulating their failures and flaws.
I personally believe that the majority of people have not stepped out of denial and honestly appraised their souls. And, in my experience, those that have not taken this critical step tend to put more evil into the world than good. By avoiding the hard questions, they are perpetuating burden and abuse upon everyone else, and they are the main driving force for the deterioration we see in society today.
Now I do realize that that is a very stern pronouncement to make, so let me follow it up by acknowledging the decades I spent being just such a person. I was in complete denial for years, and I certainly put substantial amounts of hurt and burden on other people as a result of it. I also admit that even after looking into the depths of my soul, I still have a tendency to flinch and turn away, to revert back to selfishness, to continue to cause harm to myself and others. What is more, this is the case with most, if not all, of those who have awakened to the reality of themselves. We have to repeatedly recognize our denial and return ourselves to a place of unflinching honesty in order to keep doing good.
Semantics and Society)
I have also considered those that do not necessarily deny the reality of their problems or the harm that they are causing, but who struggle to adopt the label of “addict” for various other reasons. They might feel that their behavior does not fit under the category of an addiction, even while admitting that it is compulsive, habitual, and destructive. To these people I suggested that it really doesn’t matter what they or anyone else calls that particular area of life. There is no need to debate whether it is to be referred to as a “problem area,” an “addiction,” or a “deadly sin.” There are members of my addiction group who introduce themselves as “I’m an addict,” others as “I struggle with unwanted behaviors,” and still others as “I’m a son of God.” It doesn’t matter that we use different terms and labels, just so long as we’re there to do the same work.
In this series I did push back on those who avoid admitting to their problems because of social pressures, though. Those who don’t want to be lumped with “addicts” tend to retain a sense that they are above the group. Anyone who is trying to admit that he is fundamentally flawed while still making distinctions between himself and the “other” fundamentally flawed people is in argument with himself. He is trying to hold onto his old us-vs-them worldview, while also realizing that “us” really aren’t any better than “them.”
In short, people in the “Semantics and Society” category need to break a few of their walls down. They need to accept the common humanity that encompasses us all, accept that all of us are broken, and talk about that brokenness without worrying about the labels attached to it.
On the Brink)
When I see someone teetering on the edge of joining our twelve-step group I feel a great excitement for them. They are lingering at the entrance, trying to let go of the old perspectives and agreements hold them back. They want to confess and surrender and throw themselves into an authentic way of life, but they need to cut ties with whatever lies still remain. There are only a few bonds left to sever, and if they manage it, then they are free to make the single most important choice of their entire life: the choice to live sincerely.
I do not think them petty because they struggle at the doorway. All of us who are in the room had to do that to some extent before we got through. Neither do I think that I can pull them in against their will. I can offer perspective and advice, but this is a choice that everyone has got to make on their own. Some of them choose to walk away, and there is nothing any of us can do to prevent that.
Here at my conclusion, I want to acknowledge that I have been blunt in these posts, but it is not because of any animosity towards those teetering on the edge. I merely wish to shine a bright light into whatever dark corners still remain for them. Clarity and honesty, even bluntness, are the best tools to combat any lingering self-deception.
If you have found yourself pacing at the doorway of recovery, but unable to pass through because you weren’t sure if you really had an addiction, then I hope this series has helped you to see the reality of the matter. I would love to welcome you into the community of the awakened as soon as you are ready to join us!
I’ve spent the last few posts speaking to those who recognize that part of their life is amiss, but who are reluctant to call their behavior an addiction. I’ve made the case that all of us need to strive for shameless authenticity, own our failings and admit where we need help.
I have also made the case that everyone is fundamentally flawed in one way or another. That is a claim that we immediately agree to when we hear it, but rarely do we consider the real weight of what those words mean. They mean we are going to hurt ourselves and also those around us. They mean that we are going to deny our better nature and live beneath our potential. They mean that we are going to actively put some evil out into the world.
Most of us are naturally flippant towards any serious accusation levied against us. Even if we agree that the complaint is valid, we’ll shrug our shoulders, say “no one’s perfect,” and quickly move past the issue. We don’t face the very real damage that is being done. We’re all genuinely screwing the world up around us, hurting each other in real and terrible ways, and virtually none of us own this fact. We just smile, shrug, say “no one’s perfect,” and keep our hearts sealed off.
Are you willing to start taking ownership for the evil you put into the world? Are you willing to face it with eyes wide open? Are you willing to hear the complaint of those that have been hurt without trying to justify or minimize your actions?
If your answer to the above is either “yes,” or even just “I want to be able to do that,” then you are ready to belong to the community of the awakened and striving.
A Community of Striving)
That community of the awakened and striving exists all throughout the world, intermingled with every culture and society. Its members live in broader organization, but often identify one another and coalesce together. Inside the churches is the subgroup of those who are truly faithful. Inside the non-profit charities is the coalition of those who are sincerely serving. Inside the government institution is the cabal of those who are genuinely trying to improve the world.
One place I have found where these awakened souls congregate is in the twelve-step programs scattered across the world. These communities are full of men and women who are willing to face the reality of the evil they are putting into the world and are seeking the help of a Higher Power to stop doing so. They come into this way of thinking because of their addictions, but then expand it to address all other forms of evil in their lives as well.
I have seen people drag their feet at the door to a twelve-step program because they weren’t sure whether their problems qualified as a full-on addiction or not. But we in the group aren’t going to be checking your “addiction credentials” at the door. There is no “group police” who are going to kick you out because you aren’t messed enough to be here. All that we ask is that you are sincere about facing your flaws and obtaining a life that is sober from your negative impulses. If you’re willing to do that work, then you are ready to join the crew.
I’ve already talked about our tendency to minimize our addictions, and I have encouraged all to bring their full resolve to addressing these “minimal” issues, so that they may quickly ascertain how “minimal” they really are. At the end of my last post, I suggested that even if one discovers that their vices are not a matter of choice, but of compulsion, they might still be reluctant to call their situation an addiction.
There are a few reasons why this might be, let us first consider that the person might have an aversion to that label due to social pressure. Most of us are blind to just how much we are molded by the society around us, so our addict-in-denial probably doesn’t even recognize this factor in his life at first. Through introspection, he may realize that he has always heard of addicts in association with murderers, liars, the homeless, and thieves. He has considered anyone with that title to be hopeless, broken, and perverse. In short, he views the label “addict” prejudicially.
He might express a fear of how others will view him if he labels himself as an addict. He knows that the label is stigmatized, for he has held that same stigma, and he is terrified that others will assume all manner of perversions about him that are inaccurate. He, himself, remains suspicious of addicts as a whole. He views them as an unpredictable group, and he only meets with them while inwardly pinching his nose. Frankly he believes that he is better than them. Thus, he would rather find a term that tells gives people a more favorable view of his problems.
And while that may sound terrible and judgmental, it is a completely understandable place for one to begin their journey. So many of the very people in the twelve steps started in just the same way. We have all had many years to reinforce the stereotypes of what an “addict” is, and it is going to take some time for us to broaden our perspective. We have to learn to let go of our bias and see things with more honesty and nuance.
Not That Bad)
But ignorance and bias are not the only possible reasons why one might be averse to calling himself an addict. Another reason might be that our one genuinely doesn’t think his problem qualifies under the category of addiction. Most of us feel that only certain sorts of actions can belong to an addiction. And maybe this is accurate, and maybe it isn’t, really this is merely a matter of semantics.
Some, for example, feel that an addiction must involve some sort of foreign chemicals. Thus, they would say that one could not be addicted to overeating. Others say that it doesn’t have to be a chemical, but the taking in of some substance must be involved, which would rule out being addicted to pornography or gambling.
There are also many different opinions as to how afflicted one must be before their situation can be considered an addiction. There is a sense that there is a quota of suffering and senseless behavior that must be met before the addiction is official.
But frankly, in this case arguing semantics isn’t very meaningful. So long as one realizes when and where they are powerless over their behavior, and acknowledges that they need drastic changes and external help, then who cares what they call it?
I have my own issues that fall into this gray area. One of them is my seeming refusal to get to bed on time. Every day I tell myself that I’m going to, I know that I am going to suffer if I don’t, yet night after night I find myself making the same unhealthy choice to stay up too late. Does that really qualify as an addiction? Even by the most broad and inclusive definition of the term, it seems a bit of a stretch. But I don’t care. If someone decided to call this problem of mine an addiction, I would feel absolutely no need to correct them. My addictions and my compulsive negative behaviors still live under the same umbrella, and I still need to work on each of them in the same way. In all cases I need to identify my triggers, discover my underlying mental and emotional states, seek support from understanding friends, and surrender my failings to my Higher Power.
“Addiction” or “compulsive negative behavior?” It just doesn’t matter. That which we call a thorn, by any other name, would pierce just as painfully. So long as we are no longer in denial about our affliction and our powerlessness, we may call it whatever we will. If you feel reluctant about labeling yourself an addict, I would simply encourage you to consider what the reason for that is. Is it due to some social bias, or have you become hung up on semantics? In either case, can you set aside the periphery and deal with the problem honestly and wholeheartedly? Are you humble enough to get the help you need?
13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
Cain’s proclamation of woe speaks to a very basic fear that lurks in all of us: the fear of ostracization, of being outcast from society, of being marked, of being known first and foremost as “the person that did that terrible thing,” of watching society happily continue along its way while we stand on the outside looking in.
I can only imagine how crushing a condemnation one must feel when sentenced to jail. I would expect that “unfit for society” and “a danger to others” are hard labels to take out of the mind, even after being released back into the wider world. Even after one is “reintegrated” do they actually feel so?
To be sure, our crimes against our fellowmen drive a very real rift between us, and murder is the most separating crime of all. Sooner or later, though, all of us would become ostracized from one another if not for grace and healing.