I think many of us last got this reviewed when we were under 12 years old so, let’s go over it again for a minute. Interpretations are mine, of course, based on my education and experience and very much on my observations of what people actually DO.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
Outside of the common organized religions we find in our towns and cities, there are many other belief systems that appeal to many. Some do not hold a belief in a Higher Power, but see life and its value in many forms, including Jedi Knights, which many put this down as their religion on the UK census in 2001 believing that Midichlorians exist in all living beings, which create a ‘living force’ that can be interacted with. While we can smirk at this, it is evidence that mainstream religions and the way their churches act on the holy scripture simply does not appeal to many. My suggestion: since so many of the major world religions have similar guidelines for nice behavior, please realize that the religion you claim as your own is most typically one you were born and raised in….so it was a matter of when and where you were born. Nothing much more special than that.
2. You shall not make idols.
There seems to be a type of Christianity that worships the almighty dollar. As stupid as that sounds, there are many conservative Christian churches who preach that successful people are rich….and if you are not rich it is because you are not getting right with God. So send in more money to Preacher Living High on the Hog so he can upgrade his mansion or car fleet or buy a new jet. Meanwhile, you feel bad you are not one of the chosen. My suggestion: find a new God to worship than the one your church is touting.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Personally, letting off steam by shouting “God damn it!” is not demeaning to the Lord. What you are doing is calling on your Higher Power to punish someone…significantly. And if this sounds okay to you, my next question is do you use witchcraft much? Hexes, bad curses, all that stuff? Perhaps you might want to think of a new way to express your dismay. And I know what you mean when you say Gall dang it……same thing. My suggestion: be respectful to all, as we are taught we are made in God’s image. If you mistreat anyone, you are maligning your God as well.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
I learned in an intense Bible study group that this commandment was added to the others at the time of the Babylonian exile. (Don’t remember that story.? It’s part of the Tenach, the Torah, the Old Testament or what you may refer to as the Hebrew Bible. It is part of your history if you are a Christian.) The rabbis at the time were very concerned about the people becoming assimilated so this commandment was added. Also added at that time were all the laws regarding foods that are clean or unclean….the kosher laws. My point? Well, two fold. 1. So much of what many believe in the Bible is historically proven to be written by men. 2. Hold time aside (you pick the day if you want) where you can quiet your activity and spend some hours thinking about who you are in the scheme of things in this world. My suggestion: Connect with all that you consider healthy and calm in your life. Do it with others in community.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
Seriously, some parents can never win your respect or admiration because of their attitudes and behaviors. Hopefully, you will have at least one or two other adult mentors in your life that will help guide you. Good parents and mentors will challenge you; that is part of their duties to help you grown and stand on your own feet. We end up in arguments. That’s always been the way of the world. But unless a relationship with an adult is toxic, be patient and polite, and learn. And parents: smacking your kid because s/he does not respect you does not work. They are learning that bigger and stronger wins…so guess what they will do to your precious grandchildren? My suggestion: Do better when it is your turn to parent.
6. You shall not murder.
We will always have certain people in our lives who are affecting us in a challenging way and it is tempting to wish they would just disappear. While I know many people who get really REALLY steamed up, I recognize they probably would not act on removing the person in question from this earth. But I also know many who would, if pushed to the point. Taking a life of a living person is wrong. Yes, there is evil in this world. But the death penalty has not provided a deterrent; no one says, oh I better not rape and kill this woman because if caught I will be put to death. And we know of some individuals who torture and kill puppies and kittens. Also wrong. Now, the next hard spot is abortion. The scientific part of me says no way is a zygote capable of life. And the emotional side of me says, I support your right to chose while being glad I never had to. My suggestion: be pro-life in all its stages, not just the gestational one, but as part of that, allow that someone else’s life might not permit them the same decision making as your.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
Do you remember when President Jimmy Carter was roasted over the coals for admitting when he looks at an attractive woman he felt he was guilty of lust in his heart. Why did people make fun of him? I think it’s very clear now that it was because society’s behavior is worse. Our current culture permits men to rape and sexually assault women and get away with it. So, back to being a better parent…..we are NOT doing our job teaching our children what it means to make a lifelong commitment. Now people hold their hands behind their backs, fingers crossed, when they swear “I do.” I do…until the next sexy body crosses my past. I do…..until I get irritated at you and need to feel loved again. I do…until I am bored. I don’t. SO many don’t. My suggestion: We must be much more serious when we make our promises, especially ones where we promise to partner with love and care for the rest of our days. Realize lust is NOT equal to love. Use birth control. As I told my kids, birth control fails, so be ready to have a lifelong commitment to the parent of that child, regardless of marriage.
8. You shall not steal.
I suspect most of us have broken this one. I was challenged by a Bible thumper that when I took a pen from work I was just as guilty as a shop lifter or someone who bilks others of their life savings. Perhaps, if you truly believe Santa Claus is keeping a list. But starting with a pen and discounting it can lead to bigger issues. Why is there a need for stealing? Are you hungry? Did you take advantage of the programs in the area where you can access free food? Are you an addict and need money for your habit? You have a larger problem than stealing and you might not be concerned about either, but get some help and you CAN do better. Most people want what they want when they want it. Deferred gratification and saving up for something desired is a skill set many people lack. And then there are those who assume that someone is better off and they can afford to be without this one thing. Really? Feel like judge and jury often? My suggestion: If your stealing habit is small and you want to stop, replace what you took. If you can’t do that, give something to someone who needs it. Now, if you think it’s no big deal, I really can’t help you. You missed some major ethics and morals lessons early on.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
When we have a President who lies daily and then lies that he lied, it sets a bad precedent in society. When we have people who like him and discount all his lies, we have a sick society. Many of us fear we are seeing signs of a society descending into something similar prior to Hitler leading Nazi Germany. There, as in other right-wing dictatorships, people turned against people and reported them, even if not true. We have an episode in our own American history with the histrionics over Communism. After McCarthy destroyed many lives, he was overcome when Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army asked “have you no shame?” Well, currently, it is clear the people in power have no shame. But we should. A person’s good reputation was something to be honored. My suggestion: Tell the truth. Don’t be cruel. Be honest about your own work and actions.
10. You shall not covet.
This one is hard because we are beaten daily with things to buy to make ourselves more beautiful, healthier, happier. After the World Trade Center collapsed, President George W. Bush told us to go shopping. American’s debt level is at an all time high with more and more bankruptcies all the time. There have been times in my life where my income dropped below what we needed for housing, food, medical care and the normal day to day. There was a time when it was recommended I declare bankruptcy. But I didn’t. Those credit card bills were our doing. The fact that we couldn’t pay them because of illness is a major reason why many people take that step and one more reason why we need to get healthcare costs affordable to all. But we had control over how we spent money during that time. We were on bare minimums and no, it was not fun and yes, it went on way too long, but it finally ended and we climbed out of our hole, proud that we had acted in a responsible manner. My suggestion: make a budget. Really. I remember one woman where I worked around 1980. She earned $400 a week. She wanted to buy a sewing machine. She sat down and made her budget work, saving $25 a paycheck. And in a year, she had her machine and started a new business. Own your life by keeping your desires under control.
If all that is still too hard, no matter than you’ve known this all your life here is ONE rule instead. If you can do this, all else will fall into place.