In the last blog, I wrote about how compassion flows when you connect with a person’s humanity, and acknowledge their path, and the different moments in time that led them to where the are. Life is not black and white, and no one can really know what they’d do if they’ve never been in someone else’s shoes. I do really and truly believe that each of us, from Mother Teresa to Charles Manson, began as a beautiful and innocent creation – a child. And through a million different moments, sometimes, something – just goes wrong.
Easy to say, of course, until you’re the one on the receiving end of the thing that went wrong. Until you’re the victim of a crime. Or an accusation. Or an extortion plot for some incriminating pics of you in high school and thank goodness there were no interwebs back then.
Then forgiveness can feel a little out of reach, and compassion out of the question.
I’ve never really considered myself someone who struggles with forgiveness. Not that I’m really great at it, or don’t hold grudges – I hold grudges just fine.
If anything, I’m pretty sure that I’ve been much more in need of forgiveness, than I’ve needed to forgive. Growing up, I was often the master-mind behind the Gretna version of Mean Girls. Well there weren’t really enough of us to form cliques, but we tried to improvise as best we could.
Anyway… over the last few years, I’ve discovered a few things about myself. One of these things was revealed around the time of the U.S. Election. This is not a political post, btw. Mostly not. Well… I’ll try.
The morning after the election I was stunned. STUNNED. And angry. And I half ripped off the head of the first person who tried to talk me down from it. Why was I SO angry?
I mean, I had legitimate concern for the state of the free world. I also had a lot of, “You idiots, what have you done, you idiots…” And I had straight-up bewilderment. Story after story of really, really bad behaviour, and prejudices, and pussy-grabbing just kept surfacing, and yet… here we are.
But there was also something else. Especially when I heard that 80% of the group — the tribe that I have identified with for most of my life — voted for him. It just felt so damn personal. Something inside me was screaming, “After making a lifestyle of focusing on behaviour, and anyone who isn’t Christian enough, you’re now embracing THIS GUY?”
My faith experience (and personal goal for many years) seemed that Priority One was to point out one’s every move, six ways from Sunday, that might resemble a sin. Certain ones anyway. And the threat of hell thrown around if the sin column started to total a little high. Now this same collective voice is suddenly saying, “Oh that? Yeah, don’t worry about that – as long as we build the wall and fix the bathroom issue.”
But like I said, this is not a political post.
As I’ve gotten older, I’m discovering that I take some issue with the faith I grew up in. And let me be really clear – if I’m pointing a finger, I don’t even know who I’m pointing at. Everyone? No one in particular? Myself? I don’t even know with whom the issue is, exactly. Or which parts of it are the issue?
Not all of it. Not everyone. Not even maybe. But there are certain ideas, or the culture, or mindsets.. or something. Maybe it’s all just something I took the wrong way, and it compounded. A cocktail of misunderstandings and a series of unfortunate events.
But it IS my experience.
Anne Lamott writes, “Forgiveness means it’s no longer important to hit back.”
I don’t know exactly who I’m swinging at, but it definitely feels like it’s still important to hit back. My left hook is triggered by a lot of things. Conversations I hear. Conversations I’m in. Facebook posts.
It feels like a wound. Somebody pokes at it, even inadvertently and I flinch and go into defense mode. Which actually looks a lot like offense mode.
Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” tells the story of a woman, addicted to crystal meth, who has been treated horribly by her mother, and who is now neglecting her own daughter. He describes generation after generation of ruined lives, and all I can feel is compassion. I don’t feel judgement and can only imagine the desperation and the drive to escape unimaginable pain.
But then someone makes a disparaging post about the Muslim community, or chooses to boycott a Disney flick that contains a ‘gay moment’ and I’m like, “Okay, THAT’S IT. Brace yourself for a sharply penned Facebook post of cleverly-disguised (or obviously stated) contempt.”
Yeah. That’s my super power – a sharp wit. I asked for time travel, but I got a big mouth instead.
What IS that?
Etty Hillesum, wrote from a Nazi concentration camp, “Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.”
Drat. I’ve heard that before. Like the thing when you really dislike something about someone, it’s really also something that you dislike in yourself. Shoot.
But I think that there is also the wound. And the wound is real. And my guard is up against anything that comes near it. And when that same wound is being inflicted on someone else, I can feel it. And it seems like it will take more than the passage of time to heal completely.
To be continued… possibly for longer than I want.