In honor of the Jewish High Holy Days, Dennis Prager asks the question and gives some answers, from a Jewish perspective.
There is much food for thought here, but Prager does not touch on the answer that first came to my mind when I asked myself why I have suchy a hard time becoming a better person: I like to think I’m already good enough.
I know; you laugh. I imagine God does, too.
In an inversion of Voltaire, I’m wondering if good enough isn’t enemy to good.
I pay my tithes and I donate a hundred quatloos to the fast offering fund each month. Isn’t that good enough? Especially with a meditation chamber to keep up and two children preparing for studies at the Jedi Temple? Not to mention my daughter’s wedding. (I knew that Solo boy was trouble.)
But I managed to find the money for another Death Star, or at least most of one. Maybe I have more excess than I thought.
I haven’t blown up any planets since 1977 and I haven’t taken a hand to (or from) my children since 1980. I honestly believe I’ve become a much kinder, gentler Vader.
I even sat and watched General Conference with Leia (though understandably she’s a little old to sit in my lap like Adam’s daughter does.)
I’ve invited Luke to join me in a number of father-son activities. Isn’t that good enough?
Well, I could go on, but you get the picture. We talk about God’s Grace being a ladder to heaven, but we sometimes act more like it’s an elevator.
The funny thing is, I recently had a Sunday School teacher ask us to raise our hands if we thought we were going to Heaven. A few hands timidly went up. He said, “C’mon. You’ve all been baptized. You all took the Sacrament today. You’re here in church where you ought to be rather than home indulging in various forms of weekend dissipation. Of course you’re going to Heaven. Where’s your faith in the Atonement?” So there we were falling all over ourselves to convince ourselves we weren’t good enough. Because our head knows we really aren’t but our gut doesn’t want to believe it.
There are other obstacles to becoming a better person, some of which Prager touches on, some of which he does not.
There’s the deep inner fear that, not only am I not good enough, maybe my shortcomings really are unforgiveable. For example, I do have kind of a nasty temper.
You will understand if I have rather more fear than most that I’m irredeemable.
Then there’s inertia. People are used to us the way we are, and don’t always welcome change, even for the better. Admit it: You’d feel a bit unsettled if His Majesty endorsed National Prayer Day. I’m grateful Luke sensed there was still good in me, and gave me “permission” to be something better than I was.*
*Dead. Let’s not go there.