Friday, August 21, 2015

Toxic Love

Toxic love is a modern take on love that equates love with not giving any offense. And it is toxic. Instead of love, it breeds avoidance and intolerance.

One organization committed to tolerance is refusing to tolerate any change or even new people. Why? Because they have had irresolvable conflicts with some members in the distant past!

But conflict is to be expected in any organization or even any relationship. Besides, shouldn’t we even welcome conflict? Doesn’t conflict promote growth?

Why then does this organization run from conflict? As one board member explained, the members are too concerned about being nice. Therefore, instead of dealing directly and honestly with conflict and differences of opinion, their commitment to niceness and to not hurting others’ feelings has led to avoidance. Why avoidance? We avoid those situations and relational problems we cannot resolve. This is intolerance, but a “loving” person cannot tolerate the fact that they are intolerant.

The board member explained that instead of re-examining their myopic understanding of love and radical tolerance, they remain secretly defensive and intolerant of any possible threats. While, on the surface, they remain very nice people, their membership is dwindling.

I’ve encountered the same kind of thing in the NYC Public Schools, which made great efforts to be nice to the students. On several occasions, I was reprimanded for giving students accurate but needed feedback. However, the administration interpreted my words as damaging the students’ self-esteem.

I wasn’t a permanent feature there, so I was able to avoid pursuing the required Masters in Education degree. But from what I had heard, it was largely an instrument of indoctrination in politically correct ways to nicely manage the classroom. However, despite the hours of additional education, many of our NYC schools have become jungles where the number one goal is survival and not education.

Parents also believe in being nice to their children. Instead of requiring that they call their parents “Dad” and “Mom,” niceness has led parents to discard the traditional titles in favor of “Bill” and “Betty.” Children who had once been regarded as an indispensable addition to the family, are now regarded as objects of parental self-fulfillment. And if they fail to fulfill, then they are not fulfilling their purpose.

Training of children has given way to friendship with children by parents who want to be nice and appreciated. As a result, they are raising demanding monsters who have not learned respect. Is it any wonder that Western nations now average 1½ children per family! Who can handle any more!

This “niceness” of toxic love can be noted in many areas of Western society. Preserving niceness has become such an overriding concern that justice suffers.

In Germany, 15 were wounded when one Afghani refugee reportedly desecrated a Koran:

·       Four police officers, two badly, and 11 refugees were wounded in the clash. Seven police vehicles were also damaged during the riot that took around four hours to come under control. According to the officials, the person who tore pages from the Holy Quran had arrived from Afghanistan. Police took him into custody for his own safety. In other words, they arrested the one who violated Sharia blasphemy law, not the rioters.

The one who violated the “niceness code” was arrested, even though he hadn’t broken a law. Contrary to the requirements of justice, the rioters were not arrested.

Examples of toxic love abound. Western leaders cannot proclaim often enough that Islam is “a religion of peace,” despite all of the evidence to the contrary, even while their own nations are being endangered by this deadly form of “peace.” In fact, Western niceness has gone the extra mile by labeling anyone who doesn’t practice niceness as “Islamophobes.” Western nations have even criminalized un-nice words, even when these words represent legitimate warnings about terrorism.

We need to see ourselves as good, tolerant, and accepting people, especially of people whose ways differ from ours. For this reason, we are susceptible to revolutionary ideas promoting toxic love.

David Horowitz, a former Marxist, is now appalled by Marxism and Marxist strategies. In particular, he cites Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals:

·       The Alinsky radical has a single principle – to take power from the Haves and give it to the Have-nots… a destructive assault on the established order in the name of the “people.” (Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model)

Have these radical changes actually helped “the people?” Well, we can’t ask the 100,000,000 who have been slaughtered in the process. However, each one of these experiments of utopian niceness has proved to be unsustainable nightmares.

Why then are Westerners continuing to talk about the radical change of income redistribution and all other forms of entitlement programs? Why haven’t they learned from the past? In The Black Book of the American Left, David Horowitz has observed:

·       Radical commitments to justice and other social values continue to be dominated by a moral and political double standard. The left’s indignation seems exclusively reserved for outrages that confirm the Marxist diagnosis of capitalist society.

Why does toxic love fail to examine itself? There is just too much at stake. Horowitz continues:

·       This is the classic revolutionary formula… [they] get to feel good about themselves in the process.

Feeling good about ourselves seems to trump thinking accurately. Horowitz’s assessment is born out in many other areas.

In The Significant Life, attorney George M. Weaver argues that our quest for self-importance, which often takes the form of toxic love, governs our lives:

·       Individual humans are not concerned so much about the survival of the species as they are about their personal survival or significance. In order to push ourselves beyond our confining space-time limits, we as individuals try to set ourselves apart from the rest of humanity. It is unsettling to admit that one is average or ordinary – a routine person. (7)

Jesus’ Apostles were no different. Each wanted to be greatest in His kingdom. However, Jesus was able to perceive their toxic motives:

·       And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

The human quest for significance seems to be unrelenting and self-exalting. Weaver documents this quest in many ways:

·       Salvador Dali once said, “The thought of not being recognized [is] unbearable”…Lady Gaga sings, “I live for the applause, applause, applause…the way that you cheer and scream for me.” She adds in another song, “yes we live for the Fame, Doin’ it for the Fame, Cuz we wanna live the life of the rich and famous.” (7)

However, others pursue significance in ways that appear to be opposite to niceness. Weaver writes:

·       In 2005 Joseph Stone torched a Pittsfield, Massachusetts apartment building… After setting the blaze, Stone rescued several tenants from the fire and was hailed as a hero. Under police questioning, Stone admitted, however, that he set the fire and rescued the tenants because, as summarized at trial by an assistant district attorney, he “wanted to be noticed, he wanted to be heard, he wanted to be known.” (44)

If we cannot be nice, we can achieve feelings of goodness in more perverse ways.  On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman, a zealous fan of the Beatle, John Lennon, first obtained his idol’s autograph before gunning him down. He explained:

·       “I was an acute nobody. I had to usurp someone else’s importance, someone else’s success. I was  ‘Mr. Nobody’ until I killed the biggest Somebody on earth.” At his 2006 parole hearing, he stated: “The result would be that I would be famous, the result would be that my life would change and I would receive a tremendous amount of attention, which I did receive… I was looking for reasons to vent all that anger and confusion and low self-esteem.” (47)

By attaching himself to someone greater, Chapman was able to elevate himself. Was it “low self-esteem” or merely Chapman’s own way to achieve what everyone else is trying to achieve – importance? Weaver reports that:

·       More than two hundred people confessed in 1932 to the kidnapping and murder of the infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. (50)

The need for importance – and this is often expressed in the form of toxic love - is so powerful that it seems that people are willing to pay almost any price for it. However, seeing the hopelessness of this pursuit, some have opted for a quest for ultimate meaning. In this case, toxic love might take the form of a moral-crusader. The UN claims: “The precious dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value” (82-83). Even if true, is this mission just another expression of toxic love, disguised as a nobler quest? Toxic love’s prime concern might be looking good in the cite of others.

We can even deceive ourselves into believing that the most horrid crimes are a spiritual duty, as Jesus explained:

·       They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. (John 16:2)

We are captive to our psychical needs and will satisfy them any way we can, even if it takes deluding ourselves. We need to believe that we are nice people, even superior people, and will, therefore, be nice and tolerate behaviors that we should not tolerate to convince ourselves of our niceness.

However, the root of niceness is self-righteousness and an unwillingness to seriously look at ourselves, as the Bible repeatedly claims:

·       All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. (Proverbs 16:2)

When we attempt to establish our worth and identity through our performance, it is almost inevitable that we will succumb to toxicity. Why? If we are honest with ourselves, our performance is blighted and will fail to give us the lift from our feelings of guilt, shame, and dissatisfaction with life. Instead, we are compelled to reach out for greater and greater toxic infusions.

What then is the answer? It begins by receiving a gift of significance that can only be received as a gift of righteousness from God, as the Prophet Isaiah claimed:

·       I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:10-11)

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