How My Brother Helped Me Understand the 7th Commandment

My brother taught me many things and helped me in too many ways to count. But one of my favorite episodes (that I can talk about in public) is how he and his friends helped me pass my A-Levels. And especially my oral exam in Religious Education.

As I mentioned somewhere, my brother is five years older. So by the time I was graduating from high school, he and his friends had long been freed from the shackles of high school. That settling down was the last thing on their minds became only too clear for some. I dealt with the constant rotation of people’s various partners by treating everyone as though we were instant best friends. It was self-preservation more than anything else. When you can’t remember faces but are good with names, your friend – who’s been dating Anna – trying to be helpful by introducing you to “my girlfriend Hannah” in a noisy bar is not overly helpful. Most people were nice though, and I still have deep and lasting bonds from those times.

I’ve always been philosophical though, so the whole thing made me think. Did monogamous relationships really exist somewhere, or was it all really a myth? Why all the need for so many partners? Why the need to cheat (in some cases) and not just come clean and have several partners at once, like some

were actually doing. Whether God would punish you for your sins or not only impacted on my mind when I sat in front of the panel during my R.E. exam and they lobed the question at me.

There are a few socially acceptable things I can never resist, coffee and a discussion on religious matters / spirituality are towards the top of the list. Which is also why I chose Religious Education for my subject. Though in a place that was so rigid with rules, where people equated a good sense of humor with how much you could make fun of a minority / disabled person, that was taking a huge risk.

I never had any qualms about voicing my opinion when I had a decent audience, and the panel of three visiting Catholic R.E. teachers plus my own (who was boring and bland and shocked into silence when he realized The Life of Brian was not the deeply religious movie we’d purported it to be when someone brought it in to watch after asking) would do just fine for this mid-morning performance.

Discuss how thou shalt not cheat applies to today’s world ran the question. I could imagine my then best friend half raising her eyebrows before bursting out laughing. I wished she were here to witness this, but she was Protestant (only two faiths you could be, everyone else had to take Ethics, and they never had a teacher for that), and besides, they just wanted it to be you and the panel.

“Well,” I began drawing a deep breath thinking of several people in my brother’s crowd and embarking on several tangents, before coming to the conclusion of my statement. “Obviously you can’t control what pops into your head at any given time. You can’t stop thinking how hot and sexy she is. But that’s not what Jesus was saying. What Jesus was saying was to not act on that thought, to think that you have a wife and kid at home.”

I was thinking of one very specific case I’d heard of, but then realized that the allotted time would never be enough to explain the entire scenario and what I was getting at, so I faltered.

One of the examiners, who was visibly amused at a high school student waxing so philosophical about children and marriage – all the subjects better suited to middle age – came to my rescue.

“To think of what qualities ones own wife has got,” he interjected.

“Exactly,” I fired back as though we were sitting at my favorite club discussing life and other philosophies with my brother and his friends. “And this way no one gets hurt.

They passed me with flying colors. Moral of the story? If you’re faced with an exam, always seek to entertain.


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