"What goes around comes around"; "As you sow, so shall ye reap"; "Whatever you send out returns three times"; "Karma" : all of these phrases or sayings are very familiar, most of us have grown up hearing them in one form or another, and all of them are examples of one ( One! ) Universal Law - that of cause and effect, or action and reaction.
People often apply the concept of "action and reaction" beyond the simple statement of Newton's Third Law, which states:
1. Every force is exerted by something and on something else.
2. Forces exist in equal and opposite (action-reaction) pairs.
Remember that the two forces Newton labels action and reaction forces are reciprocal. Whatever exerts a force (the action force) on something else, must itself experience an equal and opposite (reaction) force as that something else obeys the 3rd law. This is different from the "law of cause and effect", which applies more the 2nd law -- namely, the effect of applying a net force is to cause an acceleration.
A body subject to a non-zero net external force will have an acceleration that is proportional to that force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the body.
Either way, the Threefold Law is governed by the Laws of Physics and if not actually, 'physic'ally, returned "threefold", whatever it is we send out in this world is most definitely returned upon us. So, you see, there is no getting around this Threefold Law no matter how you look at it. (Besides, it's proven to me over and over in my own life, mostly for good - unfortunately, sometimes for bad too - [after all, I really am only human!])
Okay, so if all of this cause and effect stuff is completely unavoidable, how can anyone one uf us ever hope to "pay off" the debts for all the "stupid" things we've done in all of our lifetimes (not just this one)? There is an "escape" for us, thankfully, and it's called Grace. Basically it's this: once a lesson is learned completely and you grow beyond a need for this lesson, it doesn't need to be repeated, even if the "books" aren't balanced. So this "learn from your mistakes" thing isn't just a bunch of hogwash to get you through; it's actually a way to make sure you're not drowning in bad Karma for lifetimes at a time.
This Threefold Law and the main tenet of the Wiccan Rede - "An it harm none..." - may be far more binding and restricting than the guidelines for any other religion, yet they are very easy to follow. You simply consider your actions, and thoughts, and follow the path that will cause no harm to anyone, including yourself and your enemies. Those who do you harm will eventually receive what they deserve, without a doubt. If, after careful consideration of each and every outcome, you still can't find a path that will cause harm to noone, choose the one that you think will cause the least amount of harm to the least amount of people.
This doesn't mean you can't defend yourself, your loved ones or your country (for those pagans who are in the military), it simply means that whatever you do, you must be prepared to accept the consequences of what you do. If you have acted in a justified manner, then all will be well.
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Love and blessings for you,