What is an empty ritual? I have been thinking about this lately, and when I get to thinking, the topic consumes every part of me, until I can solve the puzzle, get the answer, or identify purpose. Well, I finally got it...
The problem with empty rituals is that they, by definition, do not have a purpose.
Have you ever heard someone say "that's just the way we have always done it"? AAAGH! When I hear that I just want to slap the speaker... But I don't.
Maybe my parents ruined me by teaching me that "I don't know" is not an acceptable reason for doing something.
"Why did you pour 27 gallons of water on the floor?" ..."I don't know"
"Why did you leave the bread bag open?" ..."I don't know"
"Why are there 13 empty twinkie wrappers under your bed?" ..."I don't know"
"Why are the Police at the door?"
... You get the point.
Empty rituals are cop-outs. They serve absolutely no purpose. So why do we do them? Good question; one I have been pondering. :^)
Empty Rituals start out as a good practice, one with a purpose. I am reminded of the story about ham, perhaps you have heard it:
Once there was a young lady who cooked a ham at every Christmas. Every year the Christmas ham was prepared in the exact same fashion. The young lady would get her roasting pan, put in the ham and sprinkle the ham with spices such as cinnamon and brown sugar and honey. She would then cut both ends off the ham and place it carefully into her roasting pan and put it in the oven to bake.
One Christmas morning, the young lady's husband was excitedly watching his busy wife prepare the ham for the noon meal. Suddenly on a whim, the man said, "Honey, I understand everything about the process of the preparation of the ham except one thing. Why do you cut the ends off of the ham?" To which she quickly replied, " Because that is the way my mother taught me. I will call her and ask her why."
The young lady called her mother and asked the question, " Mother, why do you cut the ends off the Christmas ham?" To which the mother replied, " Because my mother did. I have always prepared it that way. I will call Grams and ask her."
The mother called her mother, Grams and asked, " Grams why do we cut the ends off the Christmas ham?" To which Grams replied, " I don't know why you girls do, but I do it because my pan is too small for the ham."
Gram' had a purpose, the daughter's were empty rituals. The ideas start out fine, then somewhere down the line, we lose the meaning- we become like mindless puppets performing rituals for no other reason than "I don't know"
So, are empty rituals harmful? I think they are. When our actions are dictated my mindless habits, we become reliant on others for direction and lose our creative abilities. Let me cite some examples to explain:
- Give a child an outline of a flower to color, and tell them that they are only allowed to color it red. If they do not challenge that idea (they stick with the empty ritual), not only will they miss out on the joy of coloring with the full box of crayons, they will have a difficult time recognizing the beauty in a Picasso, Dali, or Warhol. How Sad.
- Poems need to rhyme. Again, joy is dictated by an empty ritual, not allowing for many more facets of poetry. How sad.
- Have you heard someone ask "How are you?" when they really did not mean it? It becomes harmful because that relationship is no more than superficial, and will never grow. How sad.
- Know anyone who goes to church on Sunday? Did you know that Adults who attended church regularly as a child are nearly three times as likely to be attending a church today as are their peers who avoided the church during childhood (61% to 22%, respectively). They go because they were taught to-but many do it for that reason only- an empty ritual. How sad.
No, that does not mean that red roses, rhymes, polite people, and attending church are intrinsically bad- the empty rituals they can become are.
Look at yourself. Ask "why?" for anything you do.
Why do you put salt on food before tasting it to see if it even needs salt?
Why do you shut the door to the bathroom when no one is home?
Why do you say "God bless you" or "Gezuntight" when someone sneezes?
Why do you cross yourself when you pray?
Why do you go to church?
Why do you say "amen" after you pray?
Jesus said it best:
"Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:" 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
So, do you get the point? If so you would ask why I wrote this. What is the purpose? Is challenging something a ritual in itself?
I do know, just ask me.