Romans 14:12 – justify your existence

Friday, June 27, 2008 0:02 | Filed in Faith & Forteana, Life

I’ve seen a poster at York Railway station a few times now. It basically just says:

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.King James Bible, Romans 14:12

Irrespective of whether you’re religious or not, the idea of being able to justify yourself and your existence crops up more and more. There’s the Inquisitor in Red Dwarf, for a start:

Tremble at my name, for I am the Inquisitor!
The Inquisitor!
Your vessel is under my control. It will return you to your mother ship where you will face judgment. You will each present a case to justify your existence. If you fail, you will be deleted!

Red Dward Series V, Episode II: The Inquisitor

So mankind seems to feel a need for justification — or perhaps it’s not so much that we need to justify ourselves, it’s that we want the seal of approval from some external agent? Are we really so insecure?

Well yes, obviously, but I don’t think it’s just that… We also want approval from society — we want to be liked by our colleagues, our friends, our family, we want to fit in. And this is because not only does it make life easier if we fit in (which is the reason you tend to hang around people with the same sorts of values and interests as yourself) but also because — for the most part at least — we don’t have sociopathic tendencies and so we do genuinely want to fit in, rather than just to manipulate people so that they perceive we’re fitting in, while really on the inside we’re seething with resentment, bubbling with hatred and waiting, waiting, until the chance arises and we can–

…sorry, where was I?

Oh yes, so assuming that we aren’t sociopathic, we tend to seek approval. Which is why the idea of being able to justify your existence isn’t such a bad thing (aside from whether you perceive it as useful training for The Big Interview In The Sky or an interesting intellectual exercise.

However, in either case, it’s important to be honest with yourself. This means not only acknowledging the faults that you try to justify (“I only did it because…”) but also to give yourself credit for the good things you do even if you think you are supposed to do them anyway (being there for a friend, being a good parent etc).

Look at yourself “in the mirror of the soul”, rather than in a physical looking-glass. Ask not whether you are perfect, but in total whether you bring more happiness than sadness to others. Do you do more good than bad? If you are religious, you might like to ask yourself how well you follow the principles of your religion — for example, as Barry McGuire would put it, you’re not being a good Christian if you:

…hate your next door neighbour, but don’t forget to say GraceBarry McGuire: Eve of Destruction

I’m not asking you to talk about your failings, or even to share them with anyone else. All I want you to do is to think about the sum total of you. And then ask yourself if you are satisfied with it.

I’m not. That’s not to say I perceive myself to be a bad person. It’s just that I think I am capable of being a better person, so I will strive to do that. I don’t know if I could justify my existence — not because I’m bad, but because I could be, should be, better.

I accept it’s a bit of a leading question mind you — I’ve just asked you to look at all your faults (as well as your virtues) and asked if you are satisfied with yourself. Would you drop a friend who exhibited your faults from time to time? Are the faults as big as you really imagine?

And even if you aren’t satisfied, no-one is expecting you to turn into a saint overnight: just identify one of the things you don’t like and work on that.

And I would argue that doing that — spending a life in pursuit of being a better person — is the justification you were looking for in the first place. So if St. Michael lets you in, put in a good word for me, won’t you (there’s always the chance I might qualify for some kind of ‘introducers bonus’ if I wouldn’t otherwise have got in…!).

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