Jummah Mubarak: Are You Right With God?
Jummah Mubarak, Shabbat Shalom & TGIF!
This week I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to build a case that supports my own ego and to justify the things I want to do using holy texts and ‘good intentions’.
Some of the worst things in the world are done by people who claim to be doing them for a righteous cause or holy purpose. How can that be?
My dad used to say, “Human beings are really smart. We’re good at making up rational lies that we use to rationalize whatever we want.” And that’s true. The realms of politics, social justice activism, business and academia are full of people who use moral justifications to treat other people badly.
So how do we know if what we are doing is really ‘right’? How do we know we haven’t just convinced ourselves that we are right so that we can freely pursue our own ego gratification?
I’m not exactly sure, and I welcome your thoughts. But I do have a couple ideas:
First, I think this is the point of being Muslim. The word “Muslim” translates roughly to “one who peacefully submits to the Will of God.” This submission isn’t just in words, or even actions – but a daily resolve to stay open to Divine Guidance and to be willing to re-evaluate all of our actions in light of hard truths. It is being conscious that any good that comes from our efforts is only possible because we’ve submitted to The Source of All Good.
Second, I think we can look at the things we do that make us feel good about ourselves in a critical light. Righteousness isn’t about feeling good – but ego gratification is.
That’s not to say that you’ll feel miserable when you’re doing right; but if our motivation (consciously or subconsciously) for doing good is the *feeling* of righteousness, or boosting personal power; the satisfaction we get from delivering punitive justice; adoration from others; or other forms of worldly recognition – our judgement may be clouded, and we may quickly fall into the trap of using moral justifications for hurting other people.
We all think we’re doing what is right. Are we? And how do you know?