Oh My Goodness! Breaking Free of the Idea that People are Rotten to the Core

Oh My Goodness! Breaking Free of the Idea that People are Rotten to the Core March 8, 2021

If you ever belonged to a church family you’ve probably met the most endearing host of the faith. You know, she’s the one who went out of her way to make newcomers feel welcome and to help any church member as much as she could. If you were lucky, she even invited you to her home for a potluck lunch after services.

When I joined the Seventh Day Adventist church in Tucson I was on my own and fresh out of high school. Like most “kids,” I barely had enough money to survive. So, I took every invitation offered to feast on a buffet-style lunch any time I could. On one fortuitous Sabbath afternoon after church, Joline, the sweetest woman in my congregation, invited me and handful of new members to her home for potluck. After lunch, we spent time chatting and enjoying each other’s company while seated around a table in her backyard. I can’t recall exactly what we were talking about, but I vividly remember how the conversation ended. I stuck my foot in my mouth by blurting out, “Oh my goodness!”

Many people have the idea in their heads that they are rotten to the core. But this perception can be easily fixed when people recognize their own self-worth. / Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

As I said it, I watched Joline’s face grow pale before settling into a grayish, granite-like composure. “You should never say that.” She stated flatly.

“Why,” I asked.

“Because we have no goodness in and of ourselves. We are sinners. It is only through Christ’s goodness that we are good.”

At the time her comment made perfect sense, and I was not the least bit embarrassed for being chastised. If anything, I felt the sting of having offended my savior.

Now, decades later, the sting of that memory still pricks my spirit but in a different way. I am angered that this religious concept is still infecting people with the demoralizing mindset that they have no inherent goodness.

On recognizing how valuable we are

One can only imagine the trauma this idea has inflicted upon individuals and the societies in which it’s accepted. Many children, for example, first learn about how vile and valueless they are in Sunday and Sabbath schools. Consequently, one wonders how this religious concept effects their perceptions of self-worth after they become adults. And what do we suppose the statistical correlation is involving individuals whose self-worth has been shattered and the rates of drug addiction, incarceration and suicide?

I was fortunate in that I was able to overcome these self-degrading concepts I’d been indoctrinated with in my formative years. I came to appreciate just how valuable my life is. Yet, accepting my own self-worth also helped me to appreciate something much more profound, which is the inherent goodness of people, and the potential of humanity to build a better world.

“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.” Pema Chodron

About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. You can read more about the author here.

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17 responses to “Oh My Goodness! Breaking Free of the Idea that People are Rotten to the Core”

  1. One way advertisers build brand loyalty by convincing people that they have some sort of flaw that ONLY that particular brand can fix. Religion works the same way.

  2. Yes, the comment that got caught was me asking if you thought I was advertising.

    I’m a software developer, but the world of Corporate America means you need marketing and sales skills.

  3. A topic for a whole different discussion is Corporate America and how it’s pushed responsibilities down while sucking up ever more of the profits.

    When I first started work in the mid-1980s, my first job at a national company sent me to the company doctor for a complete physical because that’s what they did (the job involved travel). If I was there at the company, there was an on-site cafeteria and an on-site nurse. The admin assistant for the department handled all travel arrangements and made sure we had office supplies in the cabinet–pens, paper, notebooks, etc. I just did the job and interfaced with the end-user–it was someone else’s department to handle getting new work and high-level customer meetings.

    Slowly over time all the benefits eroded. By the 1990s, it was up to the employee to source new work, do the work, manage their own benefits, and deal with the company-selected 401k. If there’s a problem, never-ever-ever go to HR because they’re there to support the company, not the interchangeable cogs that work in it.

  4. That’s a great story!

    A few years back, the mill in Massachusetts that makes Polartec burned down. Massachusetts used to be a major mill economy and this was one of the few mills still operating. The mill employed much of the town. The owner, a Polish immigrant, continued to pay his employees while the mill was rebuilt, with the promise that once it was open, they would all have their jobs back.

    A point I wanted to make earlier and probably didn’t is that employees now are now on their own to succeed or not…and the C-suite collect a percentage of the employee’s work while providing very little support to the employee. When I started working, after college, there was still a contract between employer and employee where the employer was obligated to provide benefits to the employee.

  5. It’s a shame that there are not too many of those story to read about.

    When I got out of college and out of the army I was around 30. This would be about 30 years ago when I started recognizing the changes in how companies were doing business and paying people. Both my father and my father-in-law were in the generation before me when a person could devote their lives to a company, and that company would treat them well and honor their commitment. But all that changed. Which is why I opted to work for myself as much as I could. If I had to one thing to say to people entering the job market today, it’s that either they work for themselves, or they master a skill that will always be in high demand.

  6. Some jobs make it hard to work for yourself, that’s true. I always pressed my kids to have a job that would let them support themselves. I’m surrounded by examples of kids who frittered away their education for nothing that could sustain them.

    For example, a co-worker of mine has a daughter who loves art. She painted all kinds of graffiti on her bedroom and declared she was going to go to an art college. Nothing wrong with that–in fact, there’s a college in our very state that does nothing but art, not to mention all the state community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities where someone could study art.

    Nope, nothing else would do but that she go to an out-of-state private college. Twenty years ago, this school cost $70k/year. That’s a quarter of a million dollars of debt for a degree in…art. Did she want to teach art? No, she did not. Was she good enough at art to make a living at it? No, she was not. So, a quarter-of-a-million dollars in debt, what did she do? She found a part-time job at a family business in Maine…a plant nursery. The summers in Maine last about a month.

    Her parents talk and talk and talk about the high cost of college and how Saint Bernie would have saved everyone (from their own mistakes?). Every time my co-worker whines to me about how expensive college is, I point out that the daughter could have studied art in her own state and paid maybe $30k for the same art education.

    So now what is she doing? She’s enrolled in another expensive private college to hold off her school loan repayment. She’ll get an MFA in…English. No, she doesn’t want to teach and no, she’s got no particular talent as a writer, but now she’ll be a million dollars in debt, still whining that it’s everyone else’s responsibility to pay for her crappy choices.

  7. That’s such a sad story and sadly, so common. 🙂

    Speaking of worthless degrees, I have one. A BA in Religion. I did get a good position as an associate pastor after I got my degree, but left the church, which made my degree worthless. I had to go to an expensive private college to get that degree. But back in 1980 that amounted to about 6000.00 a year. I couldn’t get any help from my parents (too poor) but borrowed and got all the Pell grants etc. I could. Still ended up with about 13 K in depth. As part of an enlistment program, I joined the army and they paid off 1/3 of that depth each year until it was paid in full.

  8. I really enjoyed my time in the military. Especially because I got to live in Frankfurt Germany for three years.

    It sounds like you did right by your kids too. Especially if they manage to get an education with no debt. My son has a two year degree, which I’m really proud of because he has special needs. And my daughter opted to work for herself. She went to school to be a massage therapist, which pays pretty good.

  9. WOW, I’m really proud of your son. I read everything you wrote about him, and it’s really a great accomplishment that he went to college!

    Are you aware that your daughter can move to just about any town in the USA and find work as a massage therapist? I’ve been working with a good one to rehab shoulder treatment; I’m 8 months ahead of schedule and about 95% of normal all because of her skill. As a massage therapist, she could work at a spa, in a business like yoga or pilates, attach herself to a doctor’s or chiropractor’s office, or work on her own. The possibilities are endless.

  10. Thanks for the nice thoughts about David. Yes, I, quite proud of the lad.

    My daughter has been working for chiropractors for her last two positions. She’s really good at what she does.

    FYI, I wanted to let you know hat I’m going to take a short hiatus from the blog for about four weeks. I also wanted to personally thank you for all your comments and support!

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