Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Selfishness, Intentions, and Emotions

As heathens, "we are our deeds." When we do something, we are judged by the nature of our action and its results, rather than on our intentions, or our state of mind, or our emotional state.  And in the simplest terms, Good is defined as what helps your family and loyal loved ones, while Bad is defined as what hurts your family and loyal loved ones.

Our ancestors didn't spend a lot of time looking at intentions, or emotions, or state of mind.  Why? Because they realized that what is REAL and what REALLY MATTERS are our actions and the impact those actions have on the real world.

This can be difficult for modern people raised in our modern culture to grasp.  We are raised with this whole need to understand "why" someone did something. What were the root causes?  What was he thinking?  Did he mean for that to happen?  How does he feel about what he has done?  Add to this, a modern aversion to actually taking full responsibility for one's actions, and it can be difficult to understand that for heathens, "we are our deeds."

This comes into play in many situations, and the mistakes people make in this area come in many forms.


Our ancestors had a rugged individuality, but they also understood that a man without kith and kin, was nothing.  Literally nothing.  There was no one to help him, no one to stand up for him or speak for him, and no one to take vengeance on his behalf.  A man without kith and kin was alone, unprotected, and nothing.

So, one's Innangarth was enormously important.  At the center of this was a man's family, and then his friends, and then his community.  If a man's actions helped this Innangarth, then the actions were Good.  If a man's actions hurt this Innangarth, then the actions were Bad.

But, as modern people, these bonds and connections with those around us have decayed quite a bit.  Marriages don't last.  Extended family bonds are rare and getting rarer.  Friends are temporary and often based on shallow bonds.  We don't know our neighbors, let alone anyone else in our community.  And modern culture seems to encourage us to seek individual pleasure, fulfillment, and satisfaction over concerns for those we are most responsible for...

And this can result in selfish behavior.  Breaking that modern habit, and learning to live with true consideration for one's family, one's tribe, and those closest to us is part of the culture reeducation that nearly all heathens must go through when come home to Heathernry.  Some learn it and live it.  And others aren't so successful at it.


One reason that intentions just didn't matter to our ancestors, was their close attention and need for Honor.  If someone's actions hurt or injured you or yours in some way, then your Honor had been taken from you.  And that was an intolerable situation that had to be resolved.  When one's honor was taken, even in bits and pieces, it was not something you could just live with.  You either took vengeance or the person that injured you must pay something to restore your Honor.  The fact someone "did not intend" to hurt you or insult you, does not completely mitigate what they did or its affect on you.

Our modern world has forgotten Honor.  People hurt or insult people accidentally, and then just shrug and say, "Oh...I didn't mean to do that."  The fact remains that they hurt or insulted you, and that hurt or insult may have lasting effect.  Accidents don't matter.  Intentions don't matter.  If you hurt or insult someone, and wish to make things good between you again, you must "fix what you broke."  It doesn' matter if you meant to break it, you have to fix it.

It is only by fixing what you broke, that you can truly put the matter to rest.  Have you ever hurt or insulted someone, apologized for it, and then a month or a year later had the event brought up again?  That is because apologies are just words.  They are simply a statement of regret, without any real action or steps taken to correct what you have done.  And our ancestors understood, that it is deeds that matter...not words.

So, as heathens...we need to understand that intentions just don't matter a whole lot.  It is the actual actions you take, the results of your actions, and how those actions affect others that actually matters.  And when we do something bad, claiming we had "good intentions" just doesn't make it all better.


Modern culture is enormously tied up in emotion.  Emotions, must like intentions, just don't matter a lot when it comes to the things we do and how they affect other people.

For instance, let's say a man has a wife and kids, but emotionally he's detached from the relationship.  He's bored with his relationship, he's feeling constrained and stagnant within his family, and he's looking around at other women and thinking about leaving his wife.

From a heathen perspective, these emotions just don't matter that much.  If the man has emotional needs that aren't being met, and decides to leave his family, that is a Bad act.  Our ancestors wouldn't have judged his act based on his emotional needs.  They would have looked at what he did, and how that affects his Innangarth.

I have a friend come to me, in this exact circumstance...and he tried to make the case to me that he was entirely justified in leaving his wife and kids, because he "wasn't in love anymore."  I told him, that from a heathen perspective...that wasn't a good enough reason to leave his wife and kids, and disrupt his family.  His oath and his responsibilities came first.  Rather than making emotional and selfish decisions, he should be spending all of his time and energy working on his marriage, and finding that spark that he lost.  And even if he never found that spark, he needed to fulfill his oath and fulfill his responsibilities to his kids to make his family work.

Emotions bring color to our lives.  They are a part of life, and I am not saying emotions should be suppressed or ignored in our lives.  I'm saying, that emotions are no excuse for Bad behavior, or that behavior that hurts our Innangarth.  When you do something selfish, and hurt one's own family, emotions do not give you a free pass.


It is your actions and deeds that matter.  This is true in all things.  And those actions and deeds are judged by how they affect your Innangarth.  Your family, your close friends, and your kindred or tribe.  And while emotions are an important part of who we are as humans, they are never a license to shirk one's obligations and responsibilities, or an excuse for bad behavior.

Intentions are internal.  You can intend to start a kindred, but until you do...your intentions just don't matter a lot in the real world.  You can have the best of intentions, but if you actions hurt someone...your intentions don't fix the damage you have done.  You can intend to get around to teaching your kids about heathenry, but intending to do something accomplishing nothing.  It is the action leading from intention that actually affects and shapes the world.

Emotions are internal.  You can love your daughter, but what she will really remember when you are gone are your actions.  She'll remember the times you read to her at bedtime, the hugs, the conversations you have with her, the advice you give, the assistance and protection you actively provide, the holding her hand in a scary movie, the time you spend comforting her when she has had a nightmare, and everything else you DO for her as a father or mother. 

Even within our practice of Heathenry, it is our deeds that matter. You can have all the Faith in the world for our Gods, but what are you DOING?  Do you honor them and gift them?  Do you live openly as a heathen, explaining what heathenry is to those that would ask?  Do you teach your children about our Ways?  Do you meet and gather with other like minded heathens?  Do you study and learn what you can, and help new heathens learn what you have learned?  Do you lead a life, of which our Gods would be proud?

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

1 comment:

  1. Some comments posted on this particular blog topic were deleted. I deleted them, because I have no obligation to give people a public forum to be insulting, bitter, and angry with me on the internet. For a further discussion of this, check out this blog post and its comments: