Do We Each Have The Capacity to Take a Life? The Deeper Message of The Sixth Commandment

As a result of the Tucson assassination attempt and killings, some people have called for stronger laws to “impose order on the chaos.” But the letter of the law was written many centuries ago and still, heartbreaking tragedies continue to happen. The sixth of the Ten Commandments is only four words in length and simply says:


Yet, how many different interpretations have you heard for this one single commandment Several, I’ll bet.

Some say that it means not to kill anyone. Others take it even further to include anything and everything that has life in it. But whether this command is talking about premeditated murder or accidentally wiping out bugs along your path, the question above all questions is: If God or Source Energy or whatever term you want to use, is the originator of all things, where did the idea that a person could or would take another person’s life come from?

You might answer that some people are just bad people and do bad things. That certainly seems to be the way it looks in our world. But even people who kill think they are doing the right thing. At least in their minds they justify doing what they do. And we can look back throughout history and see where murder was thought to be the right thing to do — at least, at the time it seemed like the right thing.

Most cultures have a history of settling disagreements about land, money, women, essentially everything in life by means of duels, vendettas, feuds, and wars — basically knocking someone off that did something that someone else didn’t like or think was right — from the beginning of time?

Yes. In fact, the first recorded murder in the Bible was when Cain slew his own brother, Able. And why did he do that? — Because he felt rejected by God and so in his depressed state he got it into his mind that terminating his brother would make him feel better. Did he do it because he was a bad person? No, not at all. He was just a regular guy, a farmer, for gosh sakes, tilling the land. Did he do it because he wanted to do something bad? No. In his mind he thought he was doing the right thing. The right thing for him, that is.

Where did Cain get the idea to take the life of his brother? — Within his own mind. He took his focus off of what was true and allowed himself to be carried away by his own perceptions. He was focusing on his own little world, the world of Cain, instead of the big picture, the world of Infinite Life.

In the same way, people today who commit murder, focus on their little world, what works for them, how they want things to be and what they think should be done to make it so. Where does anyone get the idea to kill anyone? — Within their own mind. Are those people evil? Not necessarily. Are they wrong? Maybe in your mind and in everyone else’s — but not in theirs.

Commandment Number Six says, “don’t kill each other.” How do we kill each other? Well, Sherlock, with guns, bows and arrows and even slingshots. But there’s more to it than that. It begins on the deepest level with our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, as well as, the words we speak. It’s a matter of choice. We can keep our attention on what’s really important or we can choose to intensely focus on what’s negative, harmful, vicious and damaging. Through our disapproving and critical words we can effectively kill the dreams of a loved one by doubting their abilities; kill the hopes of a child for a healthy and happy future by limiting their opportunities; or kill the love of a grandparent by withdrawing our care and attention. And those are the people we love.

How about in our every day chance encounters? Our disgusted glares at the young mother with the screaming brood pulling at her from every direction; our bothered huffs at the elderly lady who still insists upon writing out a check. Can you imagine? — Or our condescending thoughts about the overworked minority clerk, carelessly placing the gallon of ice cream on top of our whole wheat bread. The things we put up with.

This Sixth Commandment speaks about community and our place in it as individuals. At its core, it teaches us that the greatest decision we will ever make is how we choose to relate to one another. We can choose to tear down life — through desperate actions like pulling a trigger or through inner responses like harboring negative feelings and beliefs towards others. Or we can choose to affirm life — to value, honor and respect each other through everything we think, feel, say and do. It’s our choice.

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