Do not be deceived - evil company corrupts good habits.
--I Corinthians 15:33
It sounds like a mantra from a worried mother seeking to protect her children from falling in with the wrong crowd. Because we know the literal truth of the statement, we can easily overlook its broader meaning.
It's not merely keeping company with an evil person that threatens to lure us away from goodness. That's too simple. Much more insidious is our own destructiveness that separates us from the bright light of goodness. We keep company with negative thoughts that consume the creative energy within us that waits expectantly to be unearthed; we keep company with useless activities that atrophy our excitement for what could be an astonishing life adventure; we keep company with demeaning patterns of behavior that strangle the hopefulness inside that bashfully waits to be espied.
Rather than separating ourselves from these familiar but tasteless friends, we hunker down with them and live a darkened, diminished existence. This kind of evil is so sinister because of its stealth. Days, weeks, even years go by without our even being aware that our thoughts, activities and patterns of behavior have led us from the life of curious, creative children to self-satisfied, apathetic, numb adults. This kind of evil effectively closes the door to goodness. We shuffle along in a world of absent being and never think to open the door, walk through it, and shut it behind us.
Try this: Be attentive to your negative thoughts, useless activities, and demeaning patterns of behavior for one week. Don't judge yourself for them, just note them. Then once a day, the following week, when you notice yourself living the numb life, open the door a crack, take a peek outside, and note what you see. Here's an example: Yet again after dinner you plop down in front of the television screen. As soon as you recognize what's happening, go get a book, call a friend, sit under the stars, play a piano or kazoo. What does life feel like then? You may experience a slight inner burning as goodness drives the evil company away, but you also might discover anew the curious, creative childlike dance of life.
O God, when I wonder why my heart feels as flat as insipid cardboard, my soul as dry as skin weathered and leathered from hot sun, remind me to take a look at my companions, and let go of all that keeps me from goodness.
These meditations by Renee Miller first appeared at explorefaith.org
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