The Precepts in Everyday Life: “Not Misusing Sexuality” and “Not Lying” by Lorna Simons

Precept #3: Not Misusing Sexuality

Kyojukaimon says of this precept: “Remain faithful in relationships. . . .not coveting or creating a veneer of attachment is the precept of not misusing sexuality. . .Where there is nothing to desire, we follow the way of all buddhas.”

Since I have been unpartnered (mostly by choice) for many years, the obvious levels of misuse of sexuality are not an issue for me. But one gray area does occur to me, and that is objectivization. I am not immune to seeing someone, particularly someone distant from me in the world of the media, only in terms of their physicality and my sexual response to them. There seems to be no great harm in that. But any time I look only at one aspect of a person rather than at their complete humanity, it is possible that I harm myself by stunting my ability to acknowledge and accept ALL aspects of that person. I guess it’s no different from identifying anyone based on one characteristic – “She is lazy,” “Asians are polite,” “My father is racist.” No one is ever just ONE THING, and they are often one way one moment and another the next. Maybe “she” is only lazy about some things, but works hard at others. Maybe some Asians are very rude. (I learned this when I lived in Japan.) Maybe my father is racist, but is also kind and helpful to anyone who is in trouble, regardless of who they are. 

I’m getting a little off track here, although I do think the general tendency extends across many relationships. The action item I see here is being aware of when I’m expressing that kind of one-sided commentary and trying to decrease it as and when I can.

Precept #4: Not Lying

Part of my family’s emphasis on honesty (mentioned already under “Not Stealing”) included not lying. If we did something wrong but told the truth, our punishment would be less than if we got caught in a lie. That early training took root in my character, and I believe that in general I am very honest. I have little or no trouble about “big truthfulness”—taxes, paying my bills, meeting my social, family and work obligations without trying to avoid them.

Most of my lying these days happens because I want to hide uncomfortable truths about myself from others. I sometimes say I’m okay when in fact I’m not. I don’t mean not giving the honest answer to those at a distance from me, I mean revealing my difficulties and struggles to those who are close to me who might be able to give me support or benefit from seeing that I can struggle and still prevail. Or else I give a less-than-honest reason for why I choose not to go through with a plan or action, usually for the same reasons. I’d much rather say “I’m not feeling well so I won’t be able to come to the party” than say “I stayed up all night watching Netflix last night and am worthless today.”

So the action item for this precept is to pause before I give the “easy excuse/answer” and consider whether the relationship would be cleaner and stronger if I told the truth.