unsorted opinions

Doing the Opposite of Our Intentions

Why do people say “bad” is “good”? If you ever hang out with some dudes, and they’re talking about awesome stuff they did, sometimes, you’ll heart them call it “bad”. From a dictionary perspective, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But they use it for the same reason people apply cuss words in places where it makes absolutely no sense to do so: to be evocative. They want to trigger strong emotions in people, and saying something is “good” doesn’t have that exclusivity that comes with being a “rebel”. This is very ironic because being good is more rebellious than being evil – the entire world teaches you to be evil, and thus it’s defiance to say “no”.

Evoking certain emotions may be understandable, but why the inverse of the actual goal? This makes no sense. And yet, people are constantly doing the opposite of what they should already know will accomplish their goals.

Let’s start with an anonymous example. Consider “Joe”. Joe is a nice, fun guy, but he likes to cuss and smack a lot. Joe thinks his rambunctious way of life is just part of who he is as a character (even though it actually came from the way he was raised). Joe knows cussing and hitting bothers some people, but he considers them weak and says they should be more like him. At the very least, he wants people to accept him, tolerate him, and still love him despite the fact that he does thinks to upset people. Will Joe make many friends? Joe will end up with rambunctious friends like him, and it should be no surprise (at least not to me), if and when he ends up with potty-mouthed children who end up in jail for assault. It will be no surprise when his “friends” cuss him out. But Joe thinks he’s getting what he wants. Joe doesn’t understand why “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Joe thinks the problem is with the world, not himself.

The other day, I was outside kicking a soccer ball at a net. I missed the net repeatly. Over and over again, I tried hitting the ball this way and that way with no success, despite the large size of the net. Years ago, that would have been rather frustrating. I recall days when I would have been very angry and said lost of nasty words all the while thinking I could force it to be the way I wanted just by pure will power alone, as if desire was all that was needed. These days, I’m more patient and a lifelong lesson came back to me: Aim. But it was not just the abstract idea of aiming, which everyone says and nobody follows. It was the practical solution. Use geometry and kick the part of the ball that you know is on the exact opposite side as the direction you want the ball to travel. Physics will take over from there. Once you take your eyes off the ball, you won’t won’t know where to hit it correctly. If you watch enough soccer, you may notice that the good players are always looking down at the ball right before they kick it. This results in much better shots than when they just swipe at the ball. Good shooting is not a matter of “feel”. You can’t tell exactly where the ball is in front of you without looking at it, so there’s no way for you to simply “feel” your way into a good shot without looking down so your brain can do some calculations.

Needless to say, aiming helped me put the ball in the net with relatively good accuracy. But in other areas of life, we aren’t practicing the way we should.

If you want a good body, you need to work out. If you want a good mind, you need to stretch it with puzzles and problems that require new approaches. If you want a good soul, you need to pray and study the truth and practice charity. If you want to be good at anything, you need to put in the RIGHT kind of effort. As prophets have said, “You will reap what you sow.” You can’t get a good mind and soul by going to the gym. You aren’t going to become a body-builder by doing math.

So why do we think that other things will simply work out when we keep trying the opposite? Tell me, do the many television shows of people bickering or the sports events showing grown men beat on each other or the movies depicting human slaughter share with us inspiring ways of resolving conflict in a peaceful, harmonious, joyous manner for everyone involved? Do the numerous commercials offering “great deals” tell us about the benefits of frugality? Does cutting each other off in traffic represent a characteristic feature of the ideal driver? Does procrastination lead towards future opportunities that help us achieve the goals we hope will come? I think not.

It does not make any sense to do the opposite of your goal. But being selfish, most people put the responsibility on someone else, and then complain when it doesn’t get done the way they had hoped. It’s as if no one ever understood the true meaning of the phrase, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”

God often gets the blame for allowing evil, but it’s quite ironic that no one doing the complaining is ever innocent. We like to talk about innocent people. There are people who are innocent of CERTAIN things, but unless you just came out of the womb, chances are, you’ve done something selfish that has or will likely hurt someone else in some way. That’s not to say we wouldn’t want a perfect world where no one knows about how to do evil, but inasmuch as this is a nice thought, there are an increasing number of people who openly admit to wanting evil.

The freemasons come to mind. It’s an entire society devoted to an unbelievably stupid idea. If you don’t believe in the benefit of religion, why bother with an organization that acts like a religion? If you do believe in God whom you claim reason to hate, why go along with the creature you know represents horrendous evil? At the very least, I’d expect the invention of a third option.

Satan – whether real or fake – represents all of the things that people consider evil. He represents murder, rape, theft, slander, injustice. If you start talking about Satan as a positive character, you end up with this confusing idea that it is good to be evil. It might seem funny or interesting at first due to the irony, but that amusement isn’t worth the trouble of creating confusion. Perhaps in many cases, people invoke Satan for the same kind of emotional response they can get with cuss words. Unfortunately, there are deeper repercussions with putting Satan in the positive light.

Psychologically, people need to keep Satan as evil even if Satan doesn’t exist. By Satan being evil, we have some entity to attribute evil to rather than simply some arbitrary mechanics. The opposite is just weird. How comforting would you feel walking into Lucifer’s Ward of a hospital with a large logo of Satan depicted on the outside of the building? You might as well call it “Hades Hospital”: The Fastest Way to Hell. Or what sort of thoughts come to your mind when you drop your child off at “Devil’s Daycare”? Honestly, if you want to send a comforting message to people, you shouldn’t aim for the opposite.

By representing Satan as the teacher of selfishness, we are reminded of the problem of selfishness that infects our daily life and prevents us from making the right choices, choices that require our action (as any good scientist would have expected). Second, Satan can be given the blame rather than that blame being projected onto the person we are struggling with. If Satan is to blame, then we can imagine the other person as a victim whom we must help heal rather than as an adversary to fight against.

(Naturalists could always argue that belief in a “mythical” character is perpetuating a lie, but if you’re naturalist, then it shouldn’t matter because people are all doomed to the same fate regardless of belief: death.)

In any case, the point is that evil needs to be kept as evil.

As a related note, it’s very typical of the fickleness of humans who – despite wanting to promote a society of peace – have called for the tearing down of systems of morality designed specifically for keeping people in order so that everyone is at peace. They take down a poster of the Ten Commandments and in its place put a shelf of bins holding the latest criminal records. Truly sequential.

In Short

The fact is, if you want something to come about, you’re going to have to stop doing the opposite and start working TOWARDS your goal. No one going to do it for you. You aren’t going to obtain it by osmosis or sitting around. It won’t get done by you doing the opposite. You won’t get it done by doing something else and telling yourself that it’ll be done “later”. There is no “later”. There is “now”. If you really want improvement in your life, YOU have to be the one that makes a CHANGE OF HEART. YOU have to be the one that puts in the EFFORT. *gasp* Did I just spell “responsibility”?-)


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