I am not a fan of the Ten Commandments. I feel defensive when I read them. Perhaps they’re useful for running an institution where a high degree of authority and control are desired, but to expect thoughtful, self-reflective individuals to see them as the Truth? I don’t buy it. Here are a few reasons why.
I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
I can understand the desire to make a distinction between God as Truth, Wisdom, and Love verses God as anything less, but if we have been given free will (which I believe we have) God would not tell us who or what to believe. We’d be free to choose. Also, a “strange” God could be interpreted to mean anything that we have not been exposed to, including the God from another culture. This commandment has been used to justify prejudice and racism, which I believe goes against the nature of God.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Definition of IN VAIN: 1) to no end: without success or results; 2) in an irreverent or blasphemous manner. I suppose this commandment is telling us to be purposeful and intentional when addressing God, but this commandment sets God up as an authority outside the person, which goes contrary to my personal experience and understanding of God within us. Besides, I'm certain that God can hold our rage and anger when we do fly off the handle.
Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
Why do we need a LORD’s Day? If God is here, now, everywhere and always, we are never separate from God. Taking time out for ritual and remembrance is one thing, but every day is holy. Jesus understood this, which is why he challenged the notion of performing healings on the Sabbath.
Honor your father and your mother.
What if your mother and father are abusive? What does it mean to honor a person? To put them on a pedestal? To listen to them even when they’re wrong? I prefer: respect others, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Also, know that it’s okay to go against the will of any other person, including your parents, if something feels uncomfortable or bad.
You shall not kill.
I do not like killing of any kind. It's a terrible thing, and I do not believe a life is ours to take. Unfortunately, human beings kill, and they kill a lot. Sometimes in self-defense, sometimes protecting the life of loved ones. Sometimes out of fear or anger. Regardless of the reason, it is not a good thing. We do not need a commandment to remind us that it's not okay to kill. I believe each of us already knows this truth deep inside.
You shall not commit adultery.
I'm also not in favor of adultery, but, again, I do not think we need a commandment to remind us of this. Rather than condemn one another for past actions and mistakes, let's take time to self-reflect and to understand the deeper reasons for our actions.
You shall not steal.
If someone steals food in order to survive, or to feed their family; if a person has fallen on truly hard times (perhaps they are homeless and without money), their survival instincts kick in. This is a good thing. People intuitively know that stealing is not ideal. Rather than judge a person who steals, let's examine the cultural and social context in which we live and see if we can replace our "shoulds" with an openness to learn, and to come from a place of curiosity, understanding, and compassion.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
I believe in being truthful, it's just the “you shall not” language that makes me cringe. How about, “If you bear false witness against your neighbor, it sets up bad karma. If you want others to trust and respect you, learn to treat others with love and respect.”
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
What about your neighbor’s husband, or children for that matter? This rule comes from a patriarchal society that treats women as property. It’s sexist and seeks to control women. If two consenting adults are coveting each other, there’s something else happening that needs to be examined.
You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
If someone is in a bad situation and they take something in a moment of desperation, I’d have difficulty coming down hard on that person. I understand that to function as a society we need rules and regulations or perhaps rampant abuse would occur, but some situations require understanding and compassion, rather than strict observance of any law.
I would like to see a rewriting of the Commandments from the perspective of those who seek growth in consciousness and who want to become more compassionate and loving. Instead of “commandments,” I'd like to call them Loving Principles? Rather than “Thou shall not kill,” let's say, “Respect the life that has been given to you and to others.” Other loving principles could include: practice meditation, mindfulness, and prayer; blossom where you are planted; love and accept yourself as you are, and do the same for others. I'm sure there are many others we could add to the list.