A New Year's Resolution and A Daily Prayer
Let the first act of every morning be to make
the following resolve for the day:
I shall not fear anyone on earth.
I shall fear only God.
I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth,
I shall put up with all suffering.
Those words about not fearing anyone are jarring since they imply the question, “Do I fear anyone?” Beginning in childhood we feared authority figures such as our parents, teachers or coaches. As small children we longed for their approval, feared their punishment or displeasing them. As adolescents, we entered into a compulsory civil war with our parents for our independence, while struggling to be loving and obedient yet simultaneously somehow our own masters.
At each escalation to a new stage in life that old deeply ingrained childhood fear resurfaced. It needled us when we had to relate to bosses who behave as our masters expecting we kowtow, grovel and cringe before them. That ordinary title “boss,” however unknowingly, hides our deepest fears of domination. Early and democratic Americans detested the title of “master” because of its aristocratic and slave owner’s implications. So in the late 18th century they began using the Dutch word “Baas,” which meant master but lacked the offensive implications, and pronounced it, “Boss.”
Interestingly, authoritarian persons in the Catholic Church adopted parental titles like Holy Father, Reverend Father and Reverend Mother. While these imply caring parental relationships, they had deep roots associated unconsciously to childhood parental submission and early fears of displeasing.
Gandhi’s third resolution, “I shall not bear ill will toward anyone,” follows logically upon the first. Adults, even adolescence adults, easily resent those who exercise power and mastery over them. Resentment festers quickly into anger and repugnance either suppressed or expressed.
What is a mature positive attitude towards anyone in authority? Because of the hidden heavy burden of responsibilities they carry, deliberately substitute instead of fear a genuine sense of respect, even esteem, for them. Respect them but never kowtow to them.