Crime is a word we use to speak about one of the more negative aspects of our humanity — an action or omission that is considered to be shameful, wrong, or evil. These are attributes we all tend to want to avoid. For this particular investigation let's consider crime in a very broad way, crime at its most basic, the sorts of shameful or wrong actions or behaviors that might generate comments like, "the way she lied to him is a crime," or, “his behavior was so despicable, it's criminal.”
Crime lives on the dark side. We all have parts that are dark and ugly, that cause harm. These tend to be aspects we want to hide from ourselves and certainly from the rest of world. Investigating what you judge to be the worst of you, what you judge to be criminal, can begin to reveal the shame that rides alongside those acts or omissions in life that you internally judge to be oh-so-wrong. Investigating what you believe to be your darkest, most shameful attributes — those actions, thoughts, and feelings and that you judge to be “criminal” — can surprisingly be the doorway into finding the heart of compassionate self-forgiveness.
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What is it that you desperately try to hide? What causes your deepest shame? What do you feel is “criminal?” Unless you are a miracle saint, you, like the rest of us, regularly find yourself feeling guilty or shameful about some aspects of your behavior. The frustrations and challenges of life sometimes just bring out the worst in all of us.
The Rules and Breaking Them
First, it can be important to simply acknowledge that the existence of the basic concept of crime, of wrongdoing, is natural and necessary. It's a basic element of our continuing attempt to create a society with some kind of order. We need structure and rules in order to live together. When rules are broken, wrong becomes apparent.
As with many investigations in our world of duality, this one requires seeing two sides, two parts, two hands coming together. First there is the recognition of the necessity of the rules and secondly comes the understanding and compassion that flows from coming to terms with the parts of each of us that will mess up and break the rules.
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No one of us can avoid committing actions or omissions that are considered to be wrong, of doing what is judged to be just plain bad. Those kinds of acts or omissions are done by us and to us. We are each imperfect. This imperfection is a natural part of our human expression. There is no escape from it as hard as we may try. This recognition of imperfection is precisely the seed needed to begin to develop internal compassion and forgiveness. And the more deeply we develop compassion and forgiveness for ourselves, the greater our capacity to apply that same kindness to others.
We naturally learn by trial and error. We learn by recognizing that when we make a mistake that it is an error. It is possible to use that understanding as data that informs, not ammunition to berate ourselves. We can even make a huge error, recognize what we have done, and then appropriately experience guilt and remorse. It’s a self-correcting mechanism.