Battles come every day. In whatever form they come, they come.
They come with relentless pressure, incessantly assailing the battlements of our lives and our culture. Battles come in our marriages, in our families, in our jobs, in our communities and in our friendships. Enemies violently storm our lives, startlingly surging out of places and people and situations that we never dreamt they would surge from. Dark storm clouds gather over the horizon of politics, and enemies marshal their forces and assail our economy. Deteriorating ethics and collapsing morals perpetually weaken walls that have long protected the integrity of our culture, permitting enemies of all sorts frightening entrance in places we once assumed as invincible. When one battle appears to be ebbing in one place, another always seems to be brewing in another.
Then there are the battles around our own thoughts. We’re constantly pressing against the desire to feed that voraciously hungry dark side of ourselves and perpetrate a great wrong in order to feed it. It seems that we are incessantly faced with vexing questions and draining decisions that seem to be intentionally designed to batter the bulwark of our morals at every turn. We are constantly faced with choices that stretch our ethics to the breaking point, effortlessly snapping the very back of those ethics as we succumb to our baser self and then grapple with the guilt that suffocates us once we’ve caved.
There are battles within battles that become horribly tangled and impossibly enmeshed, radically elevating the complexity of situations to near insanity and beyond. We are confronted with battles that are less battles and more points of irritation, all too frequently being the result of sloppy living on our part or on the part of someone else. There are battles fought for the sole purpose of staging the next battle, or provoking one. Battles rage for the purpose of strategically positioning a person, a philosophy or a cause, thereby rendering victory little more than a secondary objective. Often battles are fought for the singular purpose of forcing cherished societal issues to the forefront, repositioning political opponents, solidifying allies, courting world favor, or simply to make a statement. Indeed, battles abound.
Giving Battles Permission
Far too often these enemies seize perpetually higher ground right in middle of innumerable masses of people who ignore both the savagery of the battle, as well as the horrific consequences of the very battle that rages all around them. Too often it’s not that we lose battles, or fight them ineptly, or run in panicked fashion away from them. Rather, as impossible and improbable as it sounds, it’s often the case that we ignore their very existence despite the screaming ferocity of them. In reality, the greatest tragedy may not be the battle itself and the carnage that it wreaks. Rather, the far greater tragedy may be our ignorance of the battle. It would seem that a weak defense is hardly the worst case scenario. Not recognizing the battle in the first place is clearly the most dangerous scenario of all.
The Enemy as Providential Progression
The increasingly frightening nature of the battles rests not simply in the abject ignorance of many as to the battle itself, but it rests with those who write off the battle as the natural progression of the culture to some higher consciousness and more refined state of democracy. There are those who view the onset of destructive forces as possessing the essential elements and irresistible energy that has both the method and muscle to perpetuate the evolutionary process that is certain to birth a more robust and advanced society. And in viewing these battles in this manner the battle is dismissed and the need to step up and fight it need not be considered.
It is the opinion of some that it is in the tearing down that the building up most effectively occurs. Indeed, such a belief certainly has great validity if the tearing down rests in the hands of a morality that realizes that immorality can most certainly tear down, but it does not have within itself the character to rebuild. Therefore, what is destructive is errantly seen as good in that whatever might be destructive about it is offset by the good that our agenda purports it will bring. Such skewed nonsense embraces the enemy as importing a hidden good that offsets the bad nature of the enemy.
Morals as Restraining
There appears to be some deliriously cock-eyed sense that true advances are only restrained by the values that birthed them, so to battle on behalf of them is to battle against progress itself. Too often, ‘out with the old and in with the new’ embraces a supposed vision that is far too often void of the wisdom that is critically necessary to determine if indeed it is a vision at all or if in reality it is little more than a hollow idea borne of selfishness, tainted by all things vogue and erected of bias. We may gorge ourselves on philosophies that bend truth to serve bent agendas and that give us permission to side-step core values, making our enemy a friend that we accidently mistook as an enemy. When this happens foe becomes friend, and the soft underbelly of all that we stand for becomes dangerously exposed.
Letting Battles Be Battles
The most egregious thing that we can do is to reinterpret a battle that we should fight as some glorious advancement that we need to get behind, instead of seeing it as something that we need to get behind us. I would conjecture that the greatest cowardice is to cow-down in the face of the battles that are facing us and change the face of them so that the battle becomes invisible and we can therefore live without the guilt of having run away. If we choose to succumb through surrender borne of reconstructed thinking, or should we rationalize unadulterated defection by shifting our values and pitching compromise, we will live diminished lives scarred by defeat and undercut by failure. And in the end, the victories that we were bred to win will become defeats that we will be doomed to bear.
Letting Battles be Battles
We need to let battles be battles and refuse to let them be anything else. We need to view battles through the keen eyes of morals and the honed intuition of ethics, rather than viewing battles with an eye toward changing those very morals and values. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded into believing that core morals and sound values are irreparably bound to another time that would bind all forward thinking and decisively banish forward progression. We cannot be duped by the evasive arguments that rationalize the abandonment of cherished morals and ethics because they will serve to turn the clock backward rather than creating a potent framework to thrust us forward.
In order to do that, we must boldly recognize that morals and values do not impede progress or stall advancement. Standing on solid principles as we stand on the precipice of the future is not a clarion call wherein we are compelled to retreat to the comfort of more secure or simpler times. Instead, morals and values create the potently sustaining bulwark within which our future can be securely and successfully navigated. Any future stripped of morals and purged of values is a future that will become an abhorrent past that will lend shame to our stories and paint regret across the face of history. And it will be so because the greater our advances, the more necessary the cultivation of morals and value to shape them and guide those advances. The further we advance the more vulnerable we become due to the simple fact that we possess progressively greater power that brings progressively greater implications in both the use and abuse of that power. Therefore, the further we progress the greater the need for the sure and faithful guidance of morals and ethics.
We cannot permit any argument despite how astutely conceived and tediously constructed to cause us to see enemy as friend. We must understand that it is the power of ethics embraced and morals unleashed that transform individual lives and unleash entire cultures toward rich transformation. Let the enemy be the enemy and let us stand in opposition as we are called to do so. Let us never live in denial of the battles that rage around us and within us. Indeed, let’s allow the battle to be the battle.
© 2015 Craig Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor