A: I have a confession to make. I was looking back at some earlier posts, and I realize that both you and I were guilty of using the terms “light” and “dark” in a less precise way than we might have. So first I want to apologize if we confused anybody.

J: Language is fluid. Communication is fluid. Words like “light” and “dark” have a lot of different meanings, depending on the context. This is why I say the intent is more important than the words. The goal here is not to speak or write like a corporate lawyer, but to talk about feelings and ideas related to the spiritual journey. Writing “live” on a blog has some of the same problems as being interviewed live on TV. People will look for ways to trip you up. But that’s their choice. That’s their intent. If their intent is to be legalistic for their own benefit, that’s up to them. Small errors in speech are going to happen, and each individual has to decide how to react to those errors. It’s a choice like any other choice.

A: It’s a choice to look at the intent behind the words or actions.

“Jesus said: What you will hear in your ear, in the inner ear proclaim from your rooftops. For no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a stand so that all who come and go will see its light” (Gospel of Thomas 33 a-b). In this saying, the act of lighting a lamp shows both your intent and the consequences of that intent. No matter how hard you try, and no matter how many excuses you invent, you can’t hide your actual intent from either your inner self (your inner ear) or from God. Your actual intent shines as brightly as a lamp to those who have the emotional maturity to see it. So it’s best to be honest about your intent and start trying to fix your mistakes in a responsible way (instead of blaming other people or blaming God or Satan for what you yourself chose to do). The photo above is a graphic reminder for me about the steps involved in taking personality responsibility. In the “oops, I made a mistake” department, I forgot to check the old back shed before the start of winter and failed to notice the hole chewed by a family of rodents so they could bring in a pantry-full of seed-filled cones. Cleaning up after the mistake I made wasn’t fun, but one of the important spiritual practices is learning how to be honest with yourself about your own mistakes and then figuring out how best to clean up after yourself. God is always happy to help you with this spiritual task. Photo credit JAT 2016.

 J: Yes. People make mistakes. It’s part of the human condition. Everybody makes mistakes. But not all mistakes are made with intent. Many mistakes are nothing more than accidents — pure accidents, with no intent to harm. Sometimes the results of purely accidental mistakes can be tragic. More often than not, though, the greatest harm is caused by people who have harmful intent towards others. Among adolescents and adults, the majority of mistakes carry with them a harmful intent. A young child who drops a glass of milk because his motor skills aren’t fully developed has no harmful intent. An adult who gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking may not be planning to crash into another car — so from this point of view a crash is an “accident” — but his intent is clearly harmful from the moment he gets behind the wheel. He intends — he chooses — to drive regardless of the consequences to himself or anyone else. That’s what I mean by a mistake with harmful intent.

A: He made a choice and hoped he wouldn’t get caught.

J: The body of law known as common law understands this principle. You treat a crime done “on purpose” differently than you treat an accidental harm. You look at the intent of the people involved, and ask yourself if anybody had motive. Did anybody stand to gain?

A: Can acquisition of status can be considered a motive, an incentive, a measurable and desirable gain in the eyes of some individuals?

J: Acquisition of status lies behind many a crime.

A: Including religious crimes against humanity — the ones committed by status-seeking religious leaders?

J: Especially the crimes of religious passion. Especially those.

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