Can obeying the Ten Commandments actually be freeing?
We recently had our gas central heating serviced. The serviceman said it needed "inhibitors" to protect us by preventing corrosion.
The use of the word "inhibitor" as something positive took me by surprise; I'm used to thinking of it as a negative term.
That set me thinking about some recent free speech issues where I felt that a little wise inhibition – or self-discipline – might have gone a long way to reducing tensions and might even enlarge the audience of those who would give these points thoughtful consideration.
In the struggle between free speech (which I support), for instance, and the honoring of dearly held religious beliefs (with which I can identify), there sometimes seems to be a "winner takes all" attitude on both sides of the argument.
There needn't be. Having the freedom to say anything doesn't necessitate saying it. Exercising respect, courtesy, and the golden rule of "doing unto others what you would have them do unto you" need not curtail the ability of imaginative writers to make bold and incisive points.
At the same time, valuing one's religious beliefs doesn't need to mean an inability to listen and pay heed to the sincere views of those who disagree. Humility, meekness, forgiveness, and even an ability to laugh at oneself could open the way for others to take into account sincere religious concerns they might otherwise ignore.
These days, inhibition often means constraint or even constriction. In much of the print and broadcast media in Europe as well as in the US, it is shedding inhibitions that gets sympathetic coverage.
As someone endeavoring to live a spiritual life, in one sense I love the idea of shedding inhibitions – stretching outside my comfort zone to find new ways to live up to the standard Jesus set of loving one's neighbor as oneself. I have found doing so takes self-discipline. As a result, I have taken on board what could be classed as "inhibitors": the Ten Commandments.
Most of these commandments start with "Thou shalt not." "Thou shalt not steal" sounds inhibiting, but if obeyed, this commandment curtails us only from making regrettable choices. More than that, I feel they steer us away from making choices that are out of sync with everyone's true individuality as the child of God, good.
I think of these "thou shalt nots" as not only telling me what I am not to do, but also telling me who I am not, therefore throwing a light onto who I am – and who we all are – as God's idea, or reflection. Divine Love certainly could not steal, murder, or envy, and so in a larger sense it is not in the nature of any of His creation to do so either.
Seen in this light, the commandments give an intelligent basis for accepting self-disciplines that might not always be obvious – not committing adultery and not being greedy.
I've come to appreciate the commandments as a support to relationships, to dealing with the pressures of materialism, and to thinking through ethical questions.
To the degree I have implemented such guidance (which can be a daily struggle!), it has subdued the mentality that resists all that is spiritual and good from ruling my thinking and therefore governing my actions.
I've come to see this as liberating, a steppingstone to experiencing what Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy described in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" as "infinite possibilities."
Anything that can open the door to infinite possibilities can't properly be described as an "inhibitor."
In that sense the wisdom of the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy can be seen as revealing, recommending, and supporting the self-discipline that frees our thought to rise to the spiritual realms where God is revealed, which, in turn, frees the heart to help and heal humanity, one needy neighbor at a time.