The Daily Stoic for June 28th. “No Self-Flagellation Needed”.
“Philosophy calls for simple living, but not for penance—it’s quite possible to be simple without being crude.”
—SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 5.5
It’s no secret I’ve always disliked the Christian religion. One of my main problems with it, since I was a child, was the concept of “sin” and “penance“. I couldn’t understand why I was guilty of something just by having been born.
Far from that, Christianity as a whole seems to lean on the concept of sin and punishment. If you are a good boy, you go to heaven. If you don’t behave as you are supposed to… well you know you have a warm, cozy place in hell reserved for you to spend eternity there.
However, this mindset permeated the whole culture I grew up with. As a result, guilt, penance, and punishment are deeply rooted in my brain. The fact that I am a perfectionist, and an over-thinker, does not really help 🙂
West Religion VS East Philosophies
That’s what I love about Asian culture and philosophies (like Buddhism), and what attracted me to techniques like meditation. While I am by no means an expert or connoisseur of all the subtleties and details of such a rich and vast world, some parts of it strongly resonate with me.
One of them is how bright and lighthearted they are when compared to western religions. There’s no guilt or punishment. Yes, you have this “re-incarnation” concept, so if you are a bad boy, you will re-incarnate and pay your mistakes in your next life… But the concept -even though not perfect- is completely different.
And creates a different mindset on young minds. You are no longer “guilty” just by having been born. While “good” and “evil” are still there, they are no longer tied to punishment and redemption.
No Self-Flagellation Needed
As a funny anecdote, the first time I tried meditation, the initial class was a very simple one. It simply addressed relaxation and breathing techniques.
I was very nervous, and -as a perfectionist- trying to do everything correctly. When we were asked to focus on our breathing, I started to exaggerate my inspirations to really concentrate on them. Then the teacher advised us to avoid doing precisely that. I immediately felt embarrassed, but then the teacher told us that it was fine, that most people try to do that, so there was no reason for feeling guilty. He was smiling, and I started to smile too. It was a funny, joyful moment.
I don’t know why this anecdote comes to mind when thinking about these differences between east and west. However, at that very moment, I understood that most of the times we self-flagellate ourselves for things we should not. Sometimes, just for trying to make things correctly. We are only humans. We make mistakes and fail, even when trying our best.
It’s time to stop blaming ourselves. We are responsible for our acts, not guilty for them. No Self-Flagellation Needed.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “No Self-Flagellation Needed”, discusses how we should practice constructive self-criticism, no punishing ourselves or fall into guilt or self-loathing.