Sinner Man, Sinner Woman, Are You a Sinner?

original sin

Sin has a special place in Christian society.  According to orthodox Christians, we are all sinners.   Most Christians upon hearing this will simply nod their head and agree.  The Catholic Church has two types of sin.  One is mortal sin.  This will get you a place in hell if not confessed before you die.  The other is called venial sin.  A venial sin gives you a place in Purgatory where you fry only for a little while until the sin is expurgated.  Then you can move on to heaven having been cleansed of “sinful” behavior.  Somewhat recently, the Catholic Church got rid of the idea of Purgatory.  It is either heaven or hell these days.

Now if you are of a more secular bent, you may dismiss the idea of sin.  In fact, you may be offended by the idea.  For myself as an atheist, I accept that the idea of sin holds some validity in the sense that some behaviors are so egregious they need strong condemnation.  The Ten Commandments depict several such behaviors that are evil enough to have been banned or outlawed in many societies.  Principally among these are murder, robber and adultery.  Even so, these behaviors are far from uncommon throughout the world.

seven deadly sins

Most of us have no doubt heard of the “seven deadly sins.”  The “seven deadly sins” were originally based on a list of eight principal vices.  This list was developed by the mystic Evagrius Ponticus in the fourth century CE.  In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I changed the list of eight vices into the list of seven deadly, or cardinal, sins of Roman Catholic theology.  This list includes pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth.  The only problem with this list is that you would look long and hard before you would find anyone who did not harbor at least one of these “sins.”  I suspect most of us are guilty of all of them at one time or another.  If sin is so common what good does it do to punish people with threats of hell and perdition?

When some behavior becomes normal, can it still be a sin?  Will most Americans go to hell for being greedy?  You are liable to say “no, surely not!”  There is no law against greed, gluttony or pride.  I am no sinner because I lust after the beautiful babe in the skintight yoga pants

Thus, it would be easy to argue that Pope Gregory 1 went overboard with his definition of these seven behaviors as sinful.  If these are not sins, should they even rank as vices?  What if greed were regarded as a vice, what would that say about modern American society?

“A worldwide survey found that majorities of people in the U.K., Canada, Spain and Australia think of Americans as violent, greedy and arrogant…The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that a median of 54 percent of people in countries surveyed associated the negative trait of arrogance with Americans. Fifty-two percent associate greed, and 48 percent say Americans are violent. — The world thinks Americans are violent, greedy, arrogant — and Americans agree  — Teresa Welsh (2016)

I could make a case that each of these seven vices or sins is simply a normal manifestation of human behavior.  Any one of them can be taken to extremes and become dysfunctional but where is the line drawn between normal pride and excessive pride, where is the line drawn between envy and desire and who draws the lines?  My argument is that calling these seven characteristics as vices is almost as extreme as calling them sins.

Does this mean that all of us are perfect?  Can any of us be as pure at heart as Sir Galahad?  Very unlikely, I would think.  So, if we are not sinful or full of vices, then what are we?

I like the word flawed.  Vocabulary.com defines flawed as:

“Flawed objects have some kind of imperfection — a dent or a blemish.  No one’s perfect, so everyone is flawed in some way, but when this word describes a person it often means ‘weak in character.’  A Shakespearian flawed hero has some flaw or foible that will ultimately be his undoing: in other words, a fatal flaw.”

I do not accept that we are all sinful.  I do believe that we are all flawed.  However, I also reject the idea that it means we are weak in character.  Many common run of the mill flaws are more lapses in judgement than they are permanent attributes.  My own definition of a flawed person is “someone who has a behavior that often causes either discomfort to the individual or to those who interact with the individual.”

original-1328023-1There are things that bother other people which may not be flaws at all.  In fact, some so called flaws demonstrate individuals who are marching to a different drummer or who are defying conventional social norms.  To defy anti-Semitism in Germany during the early 20th century would have been considered a character flaw.  To be an abolitionist in the South prior to the Civil War would have led to persecution by your fellow citizens.  Who today would consider these character flaws?  History will often show that a “flawed” individual was a hero or heroine rather than someone with a character defect.

No doubt, some flaws are more serious than others.  Some can be “fatal flaws” depending on the culture and specific context.  Today sexism is widely regarded as being a very serious flaw.  To be accused of sexism can mean the end of a career or worse depending on the infraction.  Witness the number of recent trials for those guilty of sexism.  And of course, it is not only men who succumb to the lure of sex and power but women as well as evidenced by the recent debacle that ensnared former Representative Katie Hill.  No one should be surprised though to know that there are still those who harbor anti-Semitic, sexist or racist sentiments and many who regard these behaviors as normal.

narcissists-deny-flaws-in-themselves

But sin including the concept of “Original Sin” is something that excuses the participant.  If you sin, you can simply confess to god or your local pastor and be forgiven.  If you believe that we are all sinners, when do you stop sinning?  A flaw does not give you the excuse that a sin does.  Saying “we are all sinners” is like saying “we are all racists.”  Even if it were true, so what?  What are you going to do about being a racist?  Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”  He did not say “go sin and come back again and be forgiven.”

A flaw must be addressed in a different way.  A flaw is something that must be acknowledged and not simply forgiven.  A flaw is something that you must work on.  If you are lazy or greedy, you can through diligence and discipline become “unlazy and ungreedy.”  History is full of examples of people with “flaws” who overcame them and went on to valued exemplary lives.

opportunity

A flaw does not imply any inherent ineradicable weakness.  There is no evidence that people have a DNA gene for the seven vices/sins.  A flaw gives you a choice.  Live with it and deal with the consequences or manage it and improve your character.

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.”  — Aaron McGruder

 

 

 

Killing for Machismo

It was a crime of passion

She took me by the heart when she took me by the hand

Crime of passion

A beautiful woman and a desperate man  —- Ricky Van Shelton

I find it ironic that there are Seven Deadly Sins or vices but they do not include the “Sin of Machismo.”  I would venture to argue that there are more people killed in the world every day because of Machismo than any other cause or problem that you could name.  To not include Machismo in any list of major crimes or sins or vices, is one of the most egregious oversights in history.  Is it because Machismo is a uniquely masculine concept that it has never acquired the degree of condemnation that it merits?  Or is it an example of the “Fish being the last one to see the water.”   Some would argue that it is more likely a blatant example of sexism.   

Men extol Machismo, reward Machismo, give medals for Machismo, High Five Machismo, glorify Machismo, drink toasts to Machismo, pat each other on the back for Machismo, die for Machismo and happily kill each other for Machismo.  A Macho man never cries, never shows pain, never is soft, never loses, never surrenders, never shows fear, never gives quarter, never is remorseful and never ever changes a diaper.  You are not a “Real” man if you don’t have Machismo.  Machismo is the foundation for masculinity in every culture in the world.

Ma·chis·mo

  [mah-cheez-moh, –chiz-, muh-]  

1.  a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity.

2. a strong or exaggerated sense of power or the right to dominate: The military campaign was an exercise in national machismo.

 There are two opposite concepts to Machismo.  You may ask how you can have two opposites.  Well here is a case in which two opposites of a concept exist.   The first opposite to Machismo is “femininity.”  Femininity is soft, warm, supportive, nurturing, accepting, forgiving and the first to change the diapers.  Femininity represents everything that Machismo is not.  No one ever killed another or beat another to death because their “Femininity” was questioned.  We don’t go to war because our “Femininity” was questioned nor do we invade another country to protect our “Femininity.” 

 “Machismo makes no provision for preparing lunch, doing the laundry, or minding the baby.”  — Mason Cooley

The second opposite of Machismo is Gayness.  Gay is not tough.  Gay is “queer.”   A “Real” man is not Gay.  Gay men must be feminine since they cannot be Machismo.  Gay men don’t play football or baseball or soccer or box or join the military since only “Real” Men do these things.  If you are Gay, you can be a hair dresser or actor or flight attendant but you cannot be a police officer, firemen or truck driver since these “Real” men professions require one to be Machismo.  Gays and Machismo are antithetical.

 “The tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough.” —  Germaine Greer

The number of women that are abused each year by men was the recent focus of a World Health Organization Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women (2013)Among the findings were the follows:

  • One in 3 women worldwide is a victim of physical or sexual violence, resulting in a global health epidemic, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report.
  •  Most of these females are attacked or abused by their boyfriends or husbands. “This is an everyday reality for many, many women,” Charlotte Watts, author of the report and a health policy expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said to Reuters.
  • Nearly 38% of all women murder victims were killed by intimate partners, according to the report, which was co-authored by Watts and Claudia Garcia-Moreno of the WHO.
  •  Forty-two percent of females who have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner suffer injuries, the authors explained.

Common health issues they noted in the study include:

What are the reasons that men kill and abuse women?  Experts identify different reasons for domestic abuse than for murder but the bottom line for both comes down to control and power.

“Most experts say there is no one profile of men who batter or beat women.  Domestic violence crosses all social and economic boundaries.  According to Dr. Susan Hanks, Director of the Family and Violence Institute in Alameda, California, men batter because of internal psychological struggles. Usually, men who batter are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives, or because they are tremendously dependent on the woman and are threatened by any moves on her part toward independence.” 

Some reasons given for the abuse by those who study domestic violence include:  jealousy, envy, inferiority, anger, revenge, alcoholism, and simple sadism.  Seldom do you see the issue of Machismo on any of these lists.  However, while there may be different factors precipitating the abuse and violence, without the underlying foundation of Machismo, you would not have the resulting abuse.  Machismo is the “entitlement to dominate.”  If you remove the “entitlement” you remove the abuse and violence.  For instance, if I find my wife going out with another man and I become jealous; it is my “Right to dominate” that gives me the privilege to attack her or the other man.  If I do not believe in a “Right to dominate,” I can divorce my spouse, request counseling, ignore her unfaithfulness, but I will not abuse her. 

Think of all the instances that you read in the paper of stalking, abuse and murder.  In every one of these cases, there is the assumption that is seldom mentioned by psychologists that Machismo gives men the “right to power.”  In fact, not to act on this right is to acquiesce ones maleness.  It is to give up the Machismo that is culturally at the heart of our masculinity.  The strength of this concept of masculinity varies across cultures but few cultures in the world lack the concept of Machismo though it may be called something else:

  • Code of Chivalry
  • Knights Honor
  • Warriors Code

 There is an underlying Machismo in all of these codes that is designed to instill a behavior in a culture which exhorts men to stand up for themselves and their beliefs.  By itself, this would not be bad.  Men must defend their families and countries when necessary.  However, when it comes to defending the more ambiguous elements of honor, reputation, face, dignity, respect and self-esteem, the resort to arms and violence becomes counterproductive.  Solomon Schimmel in “The Seven Deadly Sins” notes that the Sin of Pride led President George Bush to want to humiliate Saddam Hussein while Hussein claimed to be fighting for “Arab dignity.”  How many wars have been fought for national pride or national honor? 

One could make the argument that most if not all wars were not over territory, religion or economics but over national pride.  The Greeks went to war with the Trojans not over Helen but because their masculine pride had been insulted.  Hitler started WWII to avenge Germany’s defeat and loss of face in WWI.  The USA went to war in Vietnam to show the communists that capitalism was more powerful.  Pride is the greatest of all sins identified by religious leaders and philosophers.  However, it is not pride but Machismo which is the trigger to violence and war.  Pride may be the apparent foundation, but Pride by itself does not cause war or violence.  Indeed, a healthy pride mixed with a certain degree of humility is a goal to be pursued by both individuals and nations. 

The danger is that Pride mixed with Machismo creates a volatile concoction which is the source of most violence in the world.  Take any of the Seven Deadly sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, and Sloth, mix these with a sense of Machismo and you have the recipe for violence.  Machismo confers the right to act on our impulses and to compel others or dominate others that create our internal conflicts.  Without Machismo, we would have to find other means to dispel the psychological problems that arise in each of us.  Machismo allows us to circumvent any introspection by demanding that our honor be revenged or that our pride be restored.  Machismo demands the duel and the Code Duello specifies the rules for killing. 

“The two men stared at each other. Assumptions were made, judgments rendered, dicks measured.” — Jennifer Estep

Time for Questions:

Can women be Machismo?  What would you be like if you had less Machismo in your character?  Can someone have too little Machismo?  What evil do you see in the world that you would contribute to Machismo?  What positive effects of Machismo do you see?  How can we minimize the negative effects of Machismo? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

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