I can do whatever I want to as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
Surely no other sentence better describes the way we all want to live our lives in Wales today. This is the motto of our generation. Let’s live with the freedom to be who we want to be, to do what we want to do and to love who we want to love as long as we don’t hurt anyone or anything else. Sounds good, but what kind of society are we becoming by living in such a way, and is this even possible? I’m not going to discuss the consequences of this way of life on our own lives (that’s a whole other article!) but here are a few thoughts on the effects on our society…
Who defines hurt?
Physical hurt is often easy to define – I can kick somebody in the shins or stamp on their foot and it’s very clearly hurtful – but what about other kinds of pain – how are we to define hurtful? Hurt can mean different things to different people. An example of this is in what we believe and say – we can hold beliefs that others find very hurtful, but is it wrong to hold these beliefs and what should we do when somebody disagrees with us? If we have no ethical basis to define hurt, we’re simply turning people against each other – which is never good. We must have something more concrete than not hurting others to decide what is right or wrong. Who decides what is best for society, and how can we say that we’re right and others aren’t?
No man or woman is an island
There is nothing that we do that doesn’t affect those around us. Let me give you an example: A young man may sit at home on his own looking at raunchy films – he’s doing nothing to hurt anyone, and as far as we know, those who are taking part in the film have done so of their own free will. But surely that man, if he enters a relationship in future, will do so having unrealistic expectations of his partner – is there not a chance that he may be bringing baggage into the relationship that could hurt his partner? All our thoughts and behaviours affect others and define us. From the child who had to grow up too quickly because his mother just wanted to have fun, to the father who lost his son due to a drink driver knocking him over. We cause hurt and pain in ways that we could never imagine – only an arrogant or naïve person would say otherwise.
Are we even bothered?
Being brutally honest, we’ve got to ask the question, do we even give any thought about the consequences of our actions beyond the immediate circumstances? I don’t think I’m being unfair when I suggest that following this rule is a way of doing what we want rather than thinking of someone else – I know I’m guilty of this. We want to live our lives in the way that we wish and we don’t really want to think too much about others. I can have my cake and eat it: it doesn’t matter if I’m putting on weight, causing pain for my family and blocking up the NHS resources in the future. This is human nature.
Surely there’s a better way
There is somebody who is being ignored in our society today – we take no notice of what he says and I’m pretty sure we’re hurting him – though we don’t seem very bothered about it. The one who created us, loves us and cares for us has given his own motto for us to live by: Love your neighbour as yourself. This goes way beyond the shallowness of not hurting others, but actively looks for ways to do good and care for all those around us. We can never do this on our own, our hearts are too broken, we don’t know what is best for us and we’re unable to shift our focus from ourselves. We need him to step in.
That is why Jesus came, he lived the perfect life, died a death that he didn’t deserve to take the punishment we deserve. When somebody discovers this wonderful truth, he or she is transformed into a person who is trully free to love and live life to the full.
Steffan Job (Bangor, Wales)
First published in Ask Magazine August 2018