The above title is a comment made by Jesus, on the cross, and can be found in the New Testament. I was taking a course on Insight Timer recently called “The Contemplative Journey,” which is a Gnostic workshop given by Methods. The very last day of this five-day process, the instructor took us on a final meditation in which he used these words “They know not what they do.” I was mesmerized by this statement in a new way and decided to reflect on this today.
Whenever I work with clients or talk to people about psychology, I am constantly using the phrase “Well, they are not a therapist, so how would they know?” We blame people, including me, when people just don’t get it. It is confusing when you, yourself, have a lot of integrity and others do not. It is frustrating when you love someone and they don’t give it back. It is hurtful when you are blamed for something you did not do and the accuser won’t listen to you. It is painful to see people who have no respect or ethics for their profession, especially when they work for the military, government, or even a non-profit.
They know not what they do, means – to me – that the person is not aware of how their actions are going to affect them. How this sets them up karmically to alter their own journey AND the future of their descendants. To say you don’t believe in karma because you are a Christian doesn’t make sense because it is discussed in many places in the Bible. For example: Job 4:8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. Job states in 21:19 It is said, “God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.” Let him repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it! Every religion understands cause and effect. However, most people live from reaction (the past) rather than responding (the present). This string of energy is stirred up by the reactor – who causes pain to another and then doesn’t take accountability for their actions. In other words, try to repair the situation in some way, like an apology or to repair physical damage or other emotional damage in some way.
An example of a string of energy starts when a person causes an injury toward another – physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially or indirectly. That victim responds in some way. Often, we get angry, which is natural. We might try to inflict revenge in some way. That revenge is then counter-attacked by the original party who inflicted the injury and so on and so on, depending on how long the “game” seems to want to take place. At some point, the victim realizes they aren’t “winning” and ends this. Or, the perpetrator backs off or something. However, they have now begun a motion of sending negative energy out into the world that is going to subject their being to a karmic reaction from the universe. Whether it hits the perpetrator or even the victim (because when you have reacted and incited revenge, you are now a perpetrator as well), or it waits to wreak havoc on your children or grandchildren or their children, we can never be sure. This is up to the universe, or God/Goddess, not us. Once the string of energy or the negative event that has caused harm, has been put in motion, it is not in our power to determine the will of above.
In our history, an event has seemed small or simple and yet that chain reaction was the advent of a war. It is like a cigarette left in the woods, seemingly put out and then the next thing you know, the forest has been annihilated. That person may not even know it was their cigarette. In a house fire, it is more obvious. I recall as a little girl, a friend of mine’s father was inebriated and smoking and fell asleep with the cigarette still lit. She was in the house and he died, but she suffered burns over the majority of her body. They know not what they do.
In speaking of mindfulness, we are looking at remaining conscious of our actions and self-soothing when we are subjected to some type of assault or intended harm. Naturally, we are not all gurus and so when we are impacted with surprise attacks from someone, especially one that we love very much, it is not easy to act like the wise person. If it is physical, we are going to try and defend ourselves. We are going to run or fight back, people don’t generally just stand there and take it. Even people who have been shot at or knifed or with some other type of weapon, it is natural to find “defense wounds” where the victim has tried to keep the pain from being inflicted on them. I recall an experience as a little girl, at the hands of my father. I crouched up in a ball to keep the weapon from hitting me so hard, to deflect the pain – as if it was going to escape me. This is a natural tendency. We want to protect ourselves from intended harm. It is not easy to live our lives mindfully in a difficult or chaotic environment. And, again, they know not what they do.
Once, I explained to a wealthy child the reasons why laws and punishment of crimes were of no consequence to a person who commits them. I told him that to he and I, this knowledge was enough for us to say “I am not going to ever commit a crime as I do not want to go behind bars.” We knew enough to not attempt to harm someone as we were too afraid of the penalties. We were law-abiding citizens and had been raised to uphold these tenants in society. I told him that for someone who is not raised with this type of knowledge or ethics, someone who had family members in gangs, drug dealers, and where incarceration was rampant or even downplayed, they did not see these things in the same way he and I did. Being a youngster, he thought I was crazy and just thought those people were stupid. He was too young to understand my argument. I didn’t blame him as I understood that in his upbringing, not having worked for social services, he could not possibly relate to what I was saying. It was okay for me that he did not understand as this was his lesson he might one day learn in life. Ironically, his grandfather was a criminal attorney and did not understand either. He just took the money he was given and protected his criminals and looked good. His job was not to understand but to get people off.
My job is to try and help people and also to try to have a deeper focus into the psychological underpinnings of what makes people who they are and why they do the things they do. While, I do not work in the forensic world anymore, I do work with the survivors of these type of actions on occasion. And yet, I do not need to work with criminals as the average person commits actions that are inappropriate or harmful to others and these are not necessarily illegal. I have had the same happen to me as well. I have made mistakes myself to others.
They know not what they do goes very deep. It is not, just about Jesus on the cross talking about the sins of others and him dying for them. It is not, just about going to confession or praying to God for forgiveness. It is about the philosophy of understanding our actions and their consequences. It is about having self-awareness to be clear how we have affected someone. It is about being mindful of how we choose to live our life each and every day. Several months ago, I reacted to a verbal altercation against me by lashing out here on my blog post. Within the hour, the post was deleted, by me, as my inner voice told me this was wrong. Unfortunately, I had continued a string of energy in motion but I ended that by not continuing to play victim or playing up to the on-going games of the perpetrators, as the number against me began to increase. I knew that I could not outsmart manipulators and I was not going to lower myself to their level. Instead, I focused on introspection, spiritually and what I had done to cause this attack on my credibility as a person and a professional. If, someone attacks me, I have somehow attracted this in some way. If, I take responsibility for this, I can heal and learn a lesson. If, I continue to focus on being the victim, I continue to attract this same attention.
By not focusing on revenge, we become more powerful than the perpetrator. If, we are a mindful person, we know that by being God like, we grow into a wise and loving person. The manipulator will continue to allow their anger to ensue, if not on us – because we walk away – than to another. It is not my job (personally) to warn those other people of this person’s wrong doing. That is because they (the new victim) have a lesson to learn as well. It is my job, to focus on growth, healing and letting go or “turning the other cheek,” as the Bible says. Hopefully, one day, the perpetrator will have a “Come to Jesus” moment and learn from their mistakes and how they have impacted others. This is more rare, especially if it is from someone with deep psychological wounds. It is often easier for a perpetrator to deflect and get angry and blame than to see a psychotherapist.
I imagine, that when Jesus said the statement, “They know not what they do,” he was taking pity on the foolishness of people at that time and of their descendants. He was forgiving them and taking responsibility for the future of our society. This is what is stated that he meant in the Bible. I think we must take the same statement to heart in reflection to the poverty of someone’s mind who has injured us in some way. Focus on this statement as part of your healing process but focus more on your actions, your reactions, and letting go and moving on. Self-love, self-care, and even gratitude for the lesson you were given. You might not thank the Gods right now but in time, you will begin to see how it made you into the person you are today.