SexyJesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” –Matthew 10-11
If you are like me, you may have grappled in this lifetime with vegetarianism. Or veganism. Wanting your body to be healthy. Wanting to take care of your temple and do no harm.
When I read the above passage in Matthew, I wondered if this was SexyJesus saying, Eat whatever you want. Just don’t throw up. (And don’t say mean things to people.) Because obviously this stemmed from Jewish customs of eating kosher, and SexyJesus seemed to be stomping out all of that.
But this passage is really not about food. It is about actions. It is about word and deed lining up with what’s in your heart, your moral compass, your beautiful inner garden.
And it has particular resonance for women, especially with regard to that word, “defile.” Because women have been taught for a long time that what someone else does to us, or says to us, is our fault. We carry the weight of a backward history in our bodies. Our culture has tried to plant the seed that abuse or negative thinking from someone else is something we caused ourselves. We carry the concept that if we are raped, molested, harassed, or treated unfairly, we have done something to deserve it. That we must therefore act in ways that will prevent us from any potential to be defiled or tainted. Which means lots of covering up. Lots of hindering. Lots of fear.
But this passage goes beyond gender, race, or identity politics. SexyJesus is showing us that we need to bring awareness to our actions and words in every moment of every day.
When you use abusive language or actions to hurt, or as an expression of your rage or narrow thinking, you may get the intended effect. The person (or people) you’re speaking to may feel defiled. They may feel wrong, or evil, or undeserving of goodness. They may feel, in receiving your words or actions, like the worst person in the world.
And we cannot help being affected by the things people say and do to us. We’re only human. We’re sensitive creatures. Even flowers close up during a chill.
What we can help is what we do, and what we say. In arguments, in moments of heat and emotion, we may lose our heads and explode some vitriol into the world. (Meditation can help with this, by the way.) We may say things we regret, things that don’t represent the whole truth of a situation, but instead are simply a reflection of a hard heart, a narrow mind. Our words are our creation. Each day, every day, what we say creates a reality we may or may not want to live in. Each moment is a creative act, pregnant with potential for beauty. It’s best to have a practice each day where we nurture our inner garden, and pull out the weeds.
By the way? Not saying something that needs to be said is also an act of creation. Not speaking up when something wrong has occurred means you are choosing to create a vacuum, or a dark hole. Not speaking up, in certain situations, means you’re choosing to let all the goodness of your and others’ gardens wither in shadow.
There have been times in my life where something seemingly negative happened to me even when I felt I had acted in accordance with my own compass, or felt I was doing something good. There were times I felt tainted and defiled by others’ outward actions toward me. But afterward, I have always taken comfort in knowing I spoke or acted in accordance with the deepest layers of my heart, my wisdom. And if I did not behave in a way that lined up for me, I have done, and will continue to do, my best to atone for it. We all make mistakes. The trick is to move forward not from a place of ego, but from heart and abundance.
Because we don’t want to trample on the gardens of our hearts, or the gardens of others’. We don’t want to live life from a place of narrowness, of anger, of small-mindedness. Rather, we want to do our parts to acknowledge and step into the spaciousness and beauty that exists.
And of course, remember, you can’t control the weather. You can’t control bugs and parasites and squirrels that want to eat all your tomatoes. You can’t control if someone would rather see a petunia from you than your brilliant daffodil. But a daffodil is a daffodil. The truth is the truth. Love is love, and beauty is beauty, even when people don’t know how to receive it.
So keep nurturing that inner space for yourself. Know that you are not defiled by the actions or words of those around you. Do the watering, the composting, in your garden. Keep pulling out the weeds within you, with the simple acknowledgment that weeds are going to grow. That’s what they do. You don’t have to keep them. Maybe this only takes 10 minutes a day. Maybe this practice looks like meditation, or dancing, or yoga, or an energizing run. Maybe it means you journal, or create art.
Just keep planting good seeds. There are so many beautiful flowers in the world, so much sprouting each and every day.