This evening I enjoyed a fine dinner and conversation with my roommates over Taco Tuesday. I ate way too many tacos, as might be imagined. While I have managed to avoid many chemical dependencies, such as drugs or alcohol or cigarettes, I must admit that in my life I have a few shortcomings that have made my life particularly complicated and that have threatened to undo the good that I can do because of my talents and abilities and interests. We all have flaws and attractions to certain types of dangerous substances or situations, and I am no different. Some of these flaws may be endearing, but in the wrong circumstances they can cause extreme danger, whether it means trouble for being drawn to the wrong sort of young ladies or for the wrong sorts of foods and drinks in the wrong amounts. While my love of sweat tea, tacos, and chicken parmigiana, and other related foods may be good in moderation, too much of them too often could cause a great deal of harm for my physical health whether it involves weight or such problems as diabetes. Other lures threaten even more serious difficulties if indulged in to too great an extent. Even knowing these risks, I am drawn to these sorts of things. I imagine others can relate to this sort of difficulty.
Recently, Toronto mayor Rob Ford has received a great deal of notoriety for his drunkenness, his use of cocaine, as well as his foot-in-mouth disease (an affliction that I have a great deal of understanding of in my own life), have threatened him with the loss of his office. Yet he remains popular in the suburbs of Toronto for his populist positions which are supported by a large amount of the commonfolk of the Toronto metropolitan area, even if he has lost the support of the elites in the City Council. Sadly, Ford’s antics, while they have not entirely alienated his popular support, have given his enemies the reason to reject him and seek his removal, even if the most offensive aspects of his behavior may be his politics and not his personal life. Failures in self-discipline can undo a great deal of good and can provide a convenient excuse for others to discredit one’s views, even if it would be impolitic to attack those views directly.
Why are we drawn to self-destruction ? A large part of the reason is that there are so many areas where we can go wrong in life. We all seek different activities and different substances for their role in helping keep our mental and emotional equilibrium. These activities and substances can easily be abused, and our unmet and legitimate wants and needs can all too readily lead us into risky and dangerous activities. Because of our environment, personal background, and genetic inheritance, we may have all kinds of vulnerabilities that must be taken into consideration. With so much that must be aware of and conscious of, it is inevitable that at some times and in some ways we will fall prey in at least some areas of life. We all have so many blind spots and vulnerabilities that we cannot hope to escape from our lives unscathed, and it is only by the grace of God that we avoid all kinds of repercussions for our actions. It is no wonder that we all suffer at least sometimes and to some extent for the multitude of dangerous situations that we find ourselves in.
What are we to do about this situation? If we are all drawn to some dangers, and cannot ensure by our own strength or wisdom that we are able to avoid either dangerous deficits or excesses in the many aspects of our lives, what are we to do? If perfection is beyond our grasp, what allows us to maintain some sort of moral integrity in our own eyes as well as the world around us that we seek to influence through our words and actions? First, we must seek to be alert, both through our own reflection as well as the input we receive from others who are less blind to our faults and shortcomings than we ourselves are. A firm knowledge of our vulnerability and fallibility is the best way to live an upright and virtuous life. Having a sense of humility and openness means that we have fewer secrets that could lead to our destruction and humiliation. Likewise, by building relationships based on sincerity and truth, we can build support that is more enduring than that built on illusions and lies that leads others to be disappointed when the truth comes out, as it inevitably will. We may love danger like a fat kid loves cupcakes, but it does not mean we have to let that longing destroy us.