Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Maybe we would act differently if we heeded the Bible

Banned: Spoof play The Bible

Comedy show banned because some people can't bear anyone to question their beliefs!" This wasn't the actual headline about the banning of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's show at the Theatre at the Mill, but it sort of sums up the gist of the story.

So, given that we're in kindergarten when it comes to our behaviour here, I thought we'd take a leaf out of Sesame Street and say that this week's column is sponsored by the letter 'T'.

T is for Tolerance.

Isn't it funny. The minute you decide to be more tolerant, all you see is how intolerant you are in so many areas of your life!

The fundamentalist Christians are intolerant of anyone else's viewpoint. I'm intolerant about their intolerance. They stick to their guns and refuse to respect my point of view. I stick to my guns and refuse to respect theirs.

When the dust has settled on the Newtownabbey no-show, some fundamentals will remain. If we want to change behaviour, we have to start with what motivates the behaviour in the first place. When it's all boiled down to basics, there really are only two motivators – fear and love.

Is an unwillingness to allow others to express a different point of view motivated by love of what you hold dear, or by fear of being annihilated? We say it's the former, but I've a sneaky sense it's often the latter.

Back to early years education. I just wish that when I was small someone had taught me this valuable lesson – It's okay to feel afraid. It's okay to feel angry. It's okay to feel threatened and frustrated.

Instead, growing up, like most people my generation, I was told, "Stop crying" "There's nothing to be afraid of." "You're not hurt" "Go out and stay out til you calm down".

What we were shown then, was that it wasn't acceptable to be scared or hurt or angry.

I wish I'd been told that it's perfectly acceptable to FEEL these feelings, and then how you act is a different thing entirely. The problem is we conflate the feelings and the actions. We feel angry, we show it. We feel threatened, we react. We are scared, we bully. This is what doesn't work. It's small child behaviour.

When I'm angry now, I don't have a Mummy or Daddy standing beside me, but I don't need them because I've got them inside my head 24/7. I do the denying of my feelings all on my own. No sooner do I have an emotion than I'm judging it "good" or "bad". If it's bad then I suppress it and add guilt to the mix for feeling it in the first place.

So something happens and I feel angry. But, good girls don't show anger, it's not nice, so I deny it. And the anger seethes inwardly while outwardly I express "nice" sentiments. And then, when least expected, I lash out and blame others for the fact I feel bad.

The adult way is to let the feeling be felt. To acknowledge it. "Part of me feels angry/scared/shamed." Once it's seen and heard, the magic is that it lessens dramatically. Like every hurt child, it needs a hug. When it gets that, the hurt gets healed. And the other magic is that when your hurt is acknowledged by you, you don't need others to do anything.

I think this is what Jesus Christ meant by "love yourself". Treat your hurts like you would a hurt child. Then act like the adult you are. That's what I call Good News.'Is an unwillingness to allow others to express a different point of view motivated by love or fear?'

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