“Bypassing penalties,” New Era, Jan. 1971, 45
There is a remarkable sentence from Plato concerning a reason for not doing wrong. “If I were sure God would pardon me,” he said, “and men would not know my sin, yet I should be ashamed to sin because of its essential baseness.” This is to say that beyond conventions, beyond customs, even beyond the commandments, there is something essential within man that pays a penalty if he does not conduct himself with dignity and self-respect, and with respect for the purpose and laws of life.
Made in the image of his Maker, man must live to respect himself, to be clean and comfortable inside. But one of the problems is that collectively at least, we seem ever to be seeking immunity from the consequences of our own actions—a kind of indulgence that wants to bypass the penalties. We seem to forget the sense of process, the sense of what it is that brings things about.
There is too much concern about how to avoid the consequences of living in wrong ways, and not enough about living as we should so as not to be concerned. In a sense we forget that there are some things we cannot do without realizing the results. We can’t be immoral and not pay the price of immorality in one way or another. We can’t tamper with the sources of life and not have it coarsen us and change us inside.
We want tonics. We want someone to tell us that some things are not so. We want someone to tell us it’s all right to do what we shouldn’t do. But this we must remember; that there is a process by which certain products are produced, a procedure by which certain results are arrived at, not merely because of conventions, not even merely because of commandments, but because of the very nature of man—what he is, what he’s here for, and what he can become.
And the real remedy is not to do the thing that we will surely wish we hadn’t done. In other words: Don’t do something if you don’t want to realize the results. “If I were sure God would pardon me, and men would not know my sin, yet I should be ashamed to sin, because of its essential baseness.”