Why “WWJD” is a Useless Thought Exercise
I like to think I know the difference between right and wrong. Don’t steal, don’t murder, pay your taxes, try to donate to charity. And oh yeah, don’t drive on the railroad tracks. Got it.
These are what I like to call “softballs”—questions of morality that are slow-pitch, down the middle no-brainers. They are easily answered by asking yourself “What would Jesus do?” And yes, I realize that not everyone is a Christian, but we can probably agree that Jesus was a relatively decent guy.
Would Jesus hold up a liquor store at gunpoint? No, probably not. Would Jesus ever engage in insider trading? I’m sure he’d be tempted (hell, who wouldn’t be?) but ultimately I think he’d resist. Would Jesus hit a hooker? I’m fairly confident that he would not—even if she was particularly rude.
Actually, if you really have to ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” as you’re pointing a gun at a cashier, pointing your mouse hesitantly on the “sell” button for all of your Enron stock, or winding up a right hook at a hooker’s face, then you’re probably not playing with a full deck to begin with. You should probably know the answer long before asking J.C.
But what about the hard questions? Who’s around to help us when we’re having trouble with a significant other? Or contemplating a big career move?
Frankly, I have no idea what Jesus would do in those situations. I have no concept of “right” or “wrong” for a sizeable portion of my life. And that’s discomforting.
Real life, as most of us are keenly aware, is filled with decisions and situations that are infinitely more complex and challenging than whether or not to burglarize a liquor store. The human experience is filled with questions that are not easily answered by looking to the infinite wisdom of an all-knowing eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus (though it seemed to work for Ricky Bobby).
Curiously, I find that many of these Jesus-resistant situations have to do with relationships. Here is a sampling, gathered from years of introspection as well as listening to others:
How do I know if someone is right for me? How many people should I date before I get married? Am I too young to get married? How much fighting is normal? Should I break up with this person? Should I forgive someone who cheated on me? Will I ever find someone who is also into jellyfish porn?
Okay, I’ve never actually heard that last one. But you get the picture—there is scant guidance from Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, and so forth on these sorts of questions. Considering the huge role that romantic relationships play in every day human life, there just isn’t much (if any) relationship advice in the Bible or other religious texts. There is, despicably, no 50 Shades of Bethlehem.
I find the lack of relationship wisdom within the Bible (Gospel of Doctor Ruth, anyone?) particularly fascinating because it’s not like Jesus didn’t have material to work with. We all know Jesus probably had something going on with Mary Magdalene, and boy, would that have been helpful to read two-thousand years later. I hear it didn’t end so well.
But at some point between lamenting the incompleteness of the human experience within our religious texts and watching countless hours of jellyfish porn (alright, it was me), something occurred to me: maybe the Bible intentionally left out the discussions about breakups, true love, bickering, and the like. Maybe Jesus had plenty to say on the subject, but didn’t.
Maybe some things are better left unsaid.
This was the hard truth that I had to discover for myself. I recently dated a girl who, for a long time, made me very happy. But in the waning months of our two-year relationship, things had gotten really sour. You know, fighting all the time. Contemplating poisoning their cereal. The usual stuff.
I had to make a difficult decision: how long do I wait for things to turn around? Did I even believe a turnaround was possible anymore? And as I contemplated these questions, I kept asking myself, “What’s the right thing to do here?” Like it was a math problem. As it turns out, I wasn’t asking the right question.
Asking “WWJD?” for situations involving the fairer sex is a waste of time. In fact, asking what anyone would do in those situations is a waste of time. Not your parents, not your sister or brother, and certainly not that degenerate cousin who didn’t know that there was a New Mexico as well as a regular Mexico. These are questions that can only be answered reflectively and individually. They are existential, experiential, and their answers are highly variable.
At the end of the day, there is no right answer. There are only experiences. And like a bunch of kids on an Easter egg hunt, we run around with a high degree of randomness trying to figure out which eggsperiences (I know, I cringed too) we want to put in our baskets. Some of the eggs will be good, some will be rotten, and that’s just life.
Rather than ask yourself what’s right, or what would Jesus do, instead ask yourself: what kind of eggs do I want in my basket?
If you find that your basket is has been filled with bad eggs lately, change something. Look somewhere else. Find the good eggs—they’re around, just maybe not where you’d expect. And if you’re the little bastard who found all the good eggs, maybe try to help the poor sucker whose basket is filled with more bad eggs than a Miley Cyrus concert.
Because if Jesus was here right now, he’d tell you the same thing.