I’ve been reading (re-reading in some cases) books by my favorite author, Stephen King. My latest re-read is Different Seasons, which includes the story/novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” Shawshank, for those who may not know, is a prison. One of punishments handed out at Shawshank for inmates who can’t get along with others is solitary confinement. Andy, who was sentenced to life for the murder of his wife and her lover—a crime Andy argues that he did not commit—did his share of solitary confinement. Red, another long-termer, speaking about Andy’s handling of solitary said, “But I don’t think solitary was the hardship for Andy that it was for some men. He got along with himself” (p. 25). He got along with himself.
Is that the cause behind so much that is wrong in our society? Are we becoming a society of individuals who don’t get along with ourselves? I know it can be argued, as I have done, that our problem is that we are a society in love with ourselves. Who cares about the rest of you! But, is all this self-love really love; or is it a major effort to cover up our dislike of ourselves, our inability to get along with ourselves?
Are not Face Book, Twitter, Myspace, smart phones, coded texting, etc. signs of just how self-centered we’ve become and how poorly we manage to understand and communicate with each other and how thoroughly self-absorbed we’ve become? Ah, but aren’t these social network tools? Yes, and they can foster social interaction; but look at the postings. Many of them reveal the egocentric nature of the poster: a parent blasts the school system, a student tears into a teacher, John checks in at . . . , Susie and Ralph are bored, and others play games with “friends” they don’t know while avoiding the friends they do. Why? Maybe because deep down inside, each individual is not getting along with him/herself.
Then there is the violence: addicts who keep on addicting to the detriment of themselves and others; parents who physically abuse their children; children who abuse their elderly parents; irate drivers in the throes of road rage; and folks like the armed man in Arizona who opened fire at a political gathering, killing six and injuring many others. What’s behind the violence? Could it be the inability to get along with one’s self?
Is there a cure for all this craziness . . . this lashing out at others when the person I’m really out of sorts with is me? There is . . . and, yes, I am smart enough to know that the way to the answer is not simple in many cases; but the answer may well be simpler than we want to admit. As individuals, we desperately need to know and understand ourselves. We need to get along with ourselves. How is it possible?
Maybe the first step is to remind myself that God loves me, that I matter to God, that I am the subject of God’s love. If I dare to understand and believe that God loves me, might I just discover the means to like/love myself and then to get along? Were I to get along with myself, might I discover the secret to getting along with others?
To get along with others, I need to get along with myself. To get along with myself, I may need to spend some time alone in the closet of myself. As a reader of Stephen King, I know that bad things, including Cujo, lurk inside closets; but as a follower of Jesus, I know he can keep the monsters at bay. Until I’m willing to face the monster inside, I may never see that many of the “monsters” outside are merely projections of my own fears.
Want to get along? Get acquainted with yourself.