There are lots of Christmas carols at this festive time of year. You can hear them on the country channels, the classical, and even on the rock and roll music channels. Some are ecumenical, referencing Jesus Christ and the events surrounding His birth. Others are more secular, discussing the foods, smells, sights and emotions of the entire holiday season. If you listen long enough, you're bound to hear something that appeals to your beliefs or desires.
One particular song that I remember learning very early in my life is still one of my favorites - "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."
There are some phrases that, in today's world, do seem almost creepy in retrospect. "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake." I can't say I'm exactly fond of 24/7 surveillance, even if it is Santa doing the observation.
But, there's one line that parents have quoted time and again to their children to keep them in line and behaving well. "He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."When you add to that detail the list that Santa keeps of the behavior of all children - naughty or nice - parents had a perfect tool to control behavior.
Adults have a naughty or nice list as well. We talk about the book of judgment which awaits us at the end of our lives. All things we've ever done, good and bad, are recorded in the book, and we must stand in judgment while all the details are recounted.
Unlike children, adults aren't nearly so swayed by the concept of a "naughty and nice" list as are their children. We adults refuse to accept that all of our actions are etched in stone. We seem to believe that our failings and indiscretions are recorded on some type of cosmic Etch-A-Sketch, able to be erased at any time.
We treat someone badly on Monday, then wonder on Tuesday why that person is still upset with us. On Wednesday, we skimp on donations to charities, and on Thursday, we complain about the multitudes that seem to constantly have their hands out for the few coins that are available.
It is a human failing to selectively forget the evil or the harm we have done during our lives. Perhaps it's just a way of emotionally protecting ourselves. If we had to live every moment of every day with our failings, we would probably go insane with guilt and regret. So, we allow ourselves the luxury of forgetting, of letting go of all the bad.
It's not necessary to dwell on the bad in our lives; but, we should never forget. It is very true that we learn from our mistakes, or that we should learn from them. When we see the hurt that some of our actions have caused, we should be able to learn how to modify our behavior so that we don't hurt people again. If we simply forget about our actions, we no longer feel a responsibility to make any changes, and we will continue causing hurt and harm along our path through life.
Those of us who are Christian, believe that we are forgiven of our sins by the death of Jesus Christ. That forgiveness does not mean that we are absolved of future transgressions if we fail to atone. Atonement requires that we accept the consequences of what we have done and strive to eradicate such behavior from our future actions. If we, like the children with Santa, just expect a list that is balanced, good and bad, and that can restart from scratch each year, we never actually change.
This year, rather than expecting a fresh start just because our beliefs tell us we can expect forgiveness, let's try something a bit more long lasting.
This year, let's remember that we are responsible for improving ourselves, and our world. Let's remember that we have to strive every day to be better people if we expect to see a change in the world. Let's make sure that next year, there's only a "Nice List," and that we're on it.
It's all just my opinion.