This is the (expected) final post of a 13-part series on the Atheopagan Principles as I described them in my essay, “How I Became an Atheopagan”. To read the whole series, click on “Atheopagan Principles” in the tag cloud to the right.
The thirteenth Atheopagan Principle reads, “I practice kindness and compassion with others and myself, recognizing that they and I will not always meet the standards set by these principles.”
In the end, kindness and compassion—rather than anger, judgment and resentment—are the best means to live a happy life. It is far easier to carry around a nuanced understanding of a conflict that acknowledges the humanity of the person who has offended you, than it is to make that person into The Enemy. It may be harder to get to that complex understanding in the first place, but it certainly feels better once that is done than the cold, threatened feeling of having an Enemy.
Now, am I kind and compassionate all the time? Regrettably, I am not.
But I’m also able to be compassionate with myself when I sometimes “fall off the kindness wagon”. Principle 13 tells us that there is always another chance to step back, remember kindness and compassion, and choose a new course, without unnecessarily abusing ourselves.
Being compassionate and kind doesn’t mean being a doormat. Sometimes, a person simply has to be confronted, or even dropped from ones life, if her/his presence in it is too toxic. And sometimes we have very good reasons for feeling anger or violation. I am by no means suggesting that these should be ignored.
All I’m saying is that both with ourselves and with others, a spirit of compassionate curiosity and an impulse toward generosity of spirit will get us much further along the road to living happily than will their opposites.
If we orient ourselves to compassion, make it a central part of our understanding of ourselves and our approach to life, it is remarkable how much easier things can become, and how much happiness life can start to generate, simply in the course of living.
No one short of the Dalai Lama is going to live the Atheopagan Principles (or his equivalent) perfectly, all the time. Nor should s/he expect herself to do so. We all have bad days, sore spots, and events in our pasts which may encourage overreaction to certain kinds of affronts.
Just cut yourself a break, and do better next time. That is all you can ask of yourself, and all others can reasonably ask of you. Compassion and kindness are habits; they require practice. But as millions of Buddhists will attest, they can become ingrained. They can become who we are, and as they do, the world becomes a more livable and peaceful place.
I hope these explications of the Atheopagan Principles have been revealing and useful. If I’ve missed something important or you disagree with one or more of them, please comment and I’ll respond. Thanks for taking the time to read them, and for your interest in Atheopaganism!