I have been reading and learning a lot about forgiveness. We all have different proclivities for how we handle anger and hurt. Recently a blog post about our responses to horrifying acts of terrorism against innocent children challenged me to explore the polarities of love and anger and forgiveness.
I’m not sure about this, but some scriptures and some experiences I have had myself make me suspect that forgiving someone has healing power not only for ourselves, but for the offending person. And here’s the freaky part: it can happen concretely simultaneously across great distances without being communicated. I can’t prove it. I have not read anything much about it, but I have had some minor, but thought provoking, experiences.
Also, years ago, I read a small book called “The Hundredth Monkey” which had some research statistics that claimed that monkeys on separate islands and continents can suddenly simultaneously learn new “human” kinds of skills. Their conclusion was that when a certain level of a population of a species acquire a new trait or ability, it somehow triggers a leap in the species across the world. And the author’s hope was that if we as individuals became peaceful, eventually the critical number of our species would bring about world wide peace.
I kind of liked the idea and shared it with friends, but my logical self was very dubious. And since statistical studies such as this can seldom control all the variables, I took this with a grain of salt. Until recently when driving, I hesitated to start across an intersection when the light turned green because more and more people are running lights right after they turn red. And sure enough someone did. In the last four or five years I have observed a steady increase in this disturbing phenomena.
Something clicked for me today. Is this a negative example of the “hundredth monkey” theory?
Again, as David Hume taught, cause and effect are almost impossible to prove, which is why we measure statistical probability. But even a remote possibility that our own small struggle to become more loving, forgiving, peaceable people might have a lot more significance for the larger scheme of things would be reason enough to expend more serious time and effort on that project!
Most of us reach a point in our lives where we recognize that we cannot change others, we may can facilitate their attempts to change, but we can’t make anyone want to change and we can’t magically change them even when they seek change. It’s a helpless feeling and tends to make us feel pretty hopeless about things like drug addiction, terrorism and war, and the gross inequality of resources and standard of living across our planet. And even when we are consciously on a Spiritual journey putting time and effort into becoming more loving, forgiving, and peaceful, there are times it hardly seems worth the struggle, if we are managing at least to avoid breaking the big “TEN” in case there really are a heaven and a hell.
What if it matters a lot more than we can imagine for us to clean up our only mildly toxic act: our cursing bad drivers, keeping people out of our lane when they have ignored the warning that theirs is closed further down the road, turning people against one another through gossip, holding grudges, spending a major part of the rest of our lives seeking vengeance under the name of justice for real harms done us or those we love, or even just blaming everyone else for our own failures?
I tried to teach my children to judge the effect of their actions by the age old excuse, “Everybody else is doing it.” What will the world become like if everyone else does what you are doing? What will hotels have to charge if every person steals a towel or a pillow? What will driving anywhere be like if everyone drives like it’s a race to beat out all the others?
Or maybe even more pertinent, perhaps everyone not doing the same things you are not doing. Not offering help to someone that hurt our feelings, not reaching across differences, not sharing from our abundance because we assume the worst of others. Not picking up trash. Often we simply ignore our sins of omission.
The infamous butterfly fluttering on the other side of the world isn’t making a moral choice, but we do each make numerous moral choices as to what we do or neglect to do each day.
What if it only takes ten more truly loving people to change the world? Not by their accomplishments, but by their love, forgiveness, and peace? Will you and I be one of that ten?
It’s long been my theory that women outlive men, because in our culture we have traditionally been allowed the release of tears.
When men are overwhelmed, they use anger to keep from being vulnerable by showing their fears or hurt. But anger has to be controlled or it will turn into violence, so it isn’t an effective
way of expressing and releasing strong emotions. Instead it just creates more tension and stress.
Though long ago crying made me feel weak, once when doing a project using a friend’s original art, I thought I had permanently damaged all her paintings. Weeping copiously, I struggled successfully to find a way to save them. Once the crisis was over, I realized that weeping didn’t show weakness. The whole time I was weeping, I was coping by problem solving. And having an outlet for my emotions, probably freed me from panic enough to think of a creative solution.
When I was carpooling with an army staff sergeant to my civil service job on an army post, he explained why he had volunteered for a year’s duty without family in Korea. He said that he had a great posting near his wife’s family in Boston. But the first morning he reported to his new position as staff sergeant, he discovered that all his officers were women and in the process of his first staff meeting, they all, at times, cried. He had been through two wars, but he couldn’t handle that. It struck me as understandable, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the officers in all the armies cried instead of being angry and macho, would it cut down on wars?
Another time I was working in a Christian book store and right after my mother died, I had to spend a morning arranging all the Mother’s Day cards. About every fifteen minutes I had to go in the back to cry, not wanting a customer to come in and see me weeping. But a few days later, a young man still in his teens came in to buy a bible. We got to talking and he told me he had just gotten out of the army after serving in our invasion of Panama. He said that his unit was sent to surround a building that reportedly had enemy soldiers hiding there. As they approached the building with machine guns ready, some people started running out and he and the other American soldiers started firing. But it was a school and it was children and teachers running out. I was horrified, but fought back my tears. I did say, “I’m so sorry” and he nodded and left. I wish now I had cried and held him and freed him to weep. Because that is what he needed, someone to free him to weep by weeping with him.
Jesus wept when he stood on a hill overlooking Jerusalem, realizing that he had failed in what he thought was his life’s mission, saving his people, the Jews. He wept because he loved them, yet was unable to reach them.
Tears simply express strong emotion. They are healing, freeing, saving. If we understand that when feeling overwhelmed, we can cry it out and then deal with our situation. If Jesus wept, so can we. Tears are not weakness. They are a healing gift.