"And so Lent is starting out like running an anti-virus on my mind." (4/23/2012)This Lent, tracking the thoughts in my mind for ones that were destructive, was like running a full system scan on a computer and coming up with 5 pages of security warnings. Ok, my mind has some low-risk stuff like adware. (So does yours; whenever you find yourself humming the tune to an advertiser's jingle or quoting their slogan, keep in mind: the advertisers have successfully installed adware in your brain, almost like a popup.)
The adware is only a petty nuisance; it's the malware that can drag you down and make things crash. I think my next goal has to be to recognize the malware. Or -- maybe more to the point -- recognize the bait and stop taking it. Out on the internet, if I get an email from a "Nigerian prince" I know better than to reply to it. If I see an email from an old friend, and the email has a generic title and a link they would never have sent me, I know it's not really from an old friend, and I know better than to follow the link. When a pop-up comes along and gets past that blocker somehow, the mere fact that it's a popup will alert me that its sender has his own agenda, and the only purpose in sending the pop-up is to take me for a ride. (And Facebook is just as bad, but there they don't call them "viruses" they just call them "applications", and almost all their applications are privacy-compromising programs that daisy-chain through contact lists to collect personal data; but I shouldn't digress. The point is that there is suitable bait to get around our nagging sense that it's a bad idea to click that link or submit that form.)
So why, when it's in the privacy of my own mind, am I so gullible? I know for some people the big temptation is porn; for me the big temptation is resentment of people who have wronged me. They're both impure thoughts; resentment is hatred with a polite veneer. Is that polite veneer there because my mind has the decency to be ashamed that it's hateful, or because it's not even honest enough to admit what is going on? (Both, I figure, because of the two sides of the struggle in my own mind. And so the two sides reach a truce on that much: to stick with the euphemism of "resentment".)
But why do I take the bait? The temptation to mentally score points on somebody by replaying old memories -- it might as well be another notice from the Irish Lottery Commission notifying me that I won the jackpot for a drawing that I never entered. Do I really think of scoring points on these people as winning the jackpot? If not, then why do I entertain the thought? What's the gain?
I'd like to think that my mind, my heart, my soul, should be at least as well-guarded as my computer. But they aren't. You know, when my kids started using the internet, I went over all the basic security with them: how to keep your computer from getting corrupted, compromised, or hijacked. Beware of strange emails, impersonations, pop-ups, bait-links, or searching for questionable things. Keep a close eye on things coming in, and don't assume everything deserves your trust. The "Nigerian prince" is about as royal as the checker at the grocery store and has even fewer honest reasons to want into your bank account. You didn't win the Irish Lottery. And defacing the memory of people who have wronged me is not winning the jackpot.