Saturday, 18 March 2017

Negativity stays with you

We have a detention system at our school. Every time the learners break the rules, they get negative points on the system. When these points add up to a total of -40, they attend a detention class on a Friday afternoon for three hours and spend the time writing out the rules of the school. If they don’t attend the detention class, they get double the points that got them there in the first place, i.e. -80.

Some of these children do positive things, like cleaning the classrooms for the teachers, to get positive points. This has been acceptable until more recently when the principal decided that the learners have to be punished for their wrongdoing. He made an interesting statement with regard to this. If you drive through a green traffic light every day of your life and then drive through a red light on a given day, you can’t drive through five green lights and expect to be pardoned for driving through the red traffic light. This simply means that the learners can’t do positive things to get positive points to counter-balance the negative points. No good deed can pay for a crime.

How do these learners get positive points? Well, there’s no specific plan in action. The negative points are captured on the system and they stay there indefinitely. If the learners continue to misbehave or avoid detention classes, the negative points accumulate. The only way they can reduce the number of negative points is to sit in the detention class. When they attend the detention class, they are given +40 points. At the end of the year, the negative points are carried over to the next year; the burden of having negative points is dragged on into the New Year. This makes the learners despondent because they cannot redeem themselves in any way, other than attending the detention class. Some may feel that this is unfair, but is it?

When you wash your hands with a hand sanitizer that kills 99% of the germs on your hands, you tend to feel clean. Have you ever wondered what happens to the 99% of germs that have been killed? They’re still on your hands. Just like those dead germs stick to your hands, negative behaviour sticks to you. You cannot sanitize your negative behaviour. Everything you think, say or do stays with you. Just like those detention points that add up, so, too, your bad behaviour adds up; it makes you who you are. The same can be said for all the goodness that you emit. Every good thought, word and deed adds up and makes you who you are.

As you grow older, your conscience tends to lean towards focusing on the bad things. You learn to regret your past and break yourself down in the process. If you always focus your energy on doing good, your conscience won't be so heavy. This is what we learn in Leo Tolstoy’s story, The Three Questions. The answers to the three questions in the story bear the light. 
1)    What is the most important thing you must do in life? You must do what is good.
2)    When must you do it? You must do it now.
3)    Who are the most important people in your life to whom you must do it? Every person who is with you now is the most important person in your life and you must do what is good to that person.

These three questions are purpose-driven. So many people are searching for their purpose in life. There's no need to look for your purpose. Your purpose isn't something that will be given to you; it isn't something you can achieve. Your purpose is within you. The answers to these three questions should be your purpose. When you learn to serve others and you are good to them while they are with you, you will be motivated to serve even more. It’s the golden rule of life: Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31). Sadly, many people are negative towards themselves. They have negative thoughts about themselves and they have nothing good to say about themselves. They also harm themselves through their negative behaviour. This is called self-abuse.

Charity begins at home. Learn to be good to yourself first before you are good to others. Everything you do, for yourself and others, will come back to you. Focus on what is good. Just like negativity stays with you, so, too, goodness stays with you. Be the light that shines, even in the shadows, and make a positive difference. It will change the way you see life.

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