Netflix is now showing “The Story of God” a series by National Geographic starring Morgan Freeman. Each episode covers a different aspect of life and belief sharing the doctrines and viewpoint of differing religions. The show does a nice job of showing each viewpoint objectively without attacking any beliefs nor pitting one religion against another. The show explores the mysteries of life and how each culture defines their answers. A recent episode explored how religions explain why bad exists in the world.
The belief which resonated most with me is that we all have the capability of good and bad in us. Every day we have the choice about who we want to be and how we want to act. In writing a post about narcissism recently, I ran across an article with an interesting analogy drawn from comic book heroes and villains: “The supervillain is not part of the community and cannot take their mask off. They have no true friends, only subordinates or superiors. Both superhero and supervillain gain their powers in response to an extraordinary, often traumatic event. It is their response to the event that determines which way they go.” The article basically hints at the same conclusion I drew. We, each and every one of us, has the capability to be good or bad, it is in our choosing that makes it so.
I work with some people who have done very bad things. I don’t consider the individual bad. They just made a bad choice. They thought the best option to protect themselves was to choose something that hurt someone else. What they did is bad. Yet that does not make them inherently bad. I explored this a bit last year in my blog inspired by the movie about Tonya Harding. In understanding her backstory, it makes it easier to understand why she made the poor choices she made. Explains them but does not excuse them. The question is what helps us choose the right, best actions?
“The Story of God” shared a segment on a researcher in New Zealand who is uncovering how a belief in a higher power helps keep us on the straight and narrow. When left in a room alone, many of the children cheated at a game. When told that the invisible Princess Alicia was in the room, the majority of the children played by the rules. Obviously, the invisible princess was made up, so it was not her powers that made a difference. The experiment was more about how with boundaries and awareness we can tap into our natural conscience and make good decisions.
Whatever the religion, I believe being raised with some guidelines help to give that awareness of good behavior. Even without a religion, parents have the ability to instill right and wrong into the minds of their children. For those I know who are most apt to steal or worse, they were normally raised in a household where the parents were absent, abusive, or simply poor role models. Not to blame the parents, because we also have the ability to either follow our parents lead or rebel against it, which takes me full circle. If you are raised with a clear sense of right and wrong or if you were raised in an environment where adults portrayed poor behavior and ethics, you still have the choice in how you react and how you choose to be.
No matter what you have gone through, you have a choice. A choice in how you view life, view your past, and view your options for the future. Choose wisely.