In the preliminary report of the recent killings that took place in an Atlanta massage parlour, the motive might be attributable to a personal guilt trip. It is a most unfortunate event where precious lives were lost.
Lofty motivations and goals can change people to become better but in some instances it can also make us a monster. In this unfortunate situation, it seems like that lofty goal is related to religion.
When we practice religion and aim to be that perfect being, it is very important for us to be humble and patience with ourselves. We want to become a ‘higher’ or ‘better’ person but is deeply troubled by who we are now. That awareness of how inadequate or how far behind, we are from our lofty goal can be frustrating.
We may develop a sense of shame that is so deep that it turns malevolent. When shame is positive, it drives us to improve ourselves. But when it turns into negative emotion, it can lead to anger and hatred. This is especially so when we start losing hope with ourselves. When hatred arises in our mind, it targets a subject. That subject can be external or it can be ourselves. That means, we start blaming others or ourselves.
I knew a student who wanted to be perfect in everything she does. Failing her own expectaions often resulted in self-hate. That leads to minor cuts on her forearms as she punishes herself with a little pen knife.
Self-disappointment can become self hate. We need to be aware that any hatred is bad.
In other situations, we blame others for our failure and we try to manage our failure by ‘managing’ these external factors. That is a mistake because nothing in the world is within our control.
Therefore, blaming ourselves or others is pointless. In short, any aversion or hatred results in sufferings.
How do we manage our goals and self disappointment then?
Personally, I deal with this problem by being humble.
Instead of setting an impossible target or objective, I set a more reasonable target for myself. Instead of wanting to be number 1, we can perhaps start by aiming to be the top 30 or 20 in class. Instead of aiming to be celibate, we can perhaps be proud of ourselves for not committing sexual misconduct. In Buddhism, sex for a lay person is OKAY; as long as we do not harm others or ourselves in the process.
Next, we need tons of patience with ourselves. There are bound to be failures. Occasions when we don’t meet our own expectations. It is Okay. Buddha took countless lifetimes to improve and perfect Himself. So we should be patience with our performances. The important thing is not to lose hope and keep trying. Learn to be forgiving.
Naturally, it is important to stick to our principle of non violence and non hatred. Regardless of whether it is directed towards ourselves or others. Violence and hatred is never acceptable.
May all be well and happy.