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?
I’ve always struggled with unrealistic expectations and the depression that follows when I’m forced to face the realities of our human imperfections (including mine) and a seemingly hopelessly imperfect world.
One of my many disillusionments has been how imperceptible are the differences even the greatest of us makes. For every plague we cure, another one is born. From every war we win, the seeds of the next are sown. For every race or nation emancipated, we project our inner evil on another one. For every answer we discover, a new question arises.
I cling to the hope, that in the overall picture of eons of evolution, that there is progress imperceptible to us in humanity’s short history, but recognizable to God.
Sometimes in the crucible of my own struggle to become the person God created me to be, no matter how humiliatingly limited that potential may be, I get a glimpse of a tiny, almost imperceptible new strength, understanding, and freedom in my willingness to love. If I can resist being overwhelmed by the multitude of areas where I still fall short, I can focus on the next breadcrumb in the spiritual trail God has scattered for me in my daily life.
The key word for me is ‘tiny.’ My illusions are large with fairy tale size expectations.
My husband was a realist, who lived in the moment, and was able to focus on just the next task. I once had a dream in which we were at dinner on a river cruise. The waiters kept bringing small appetizer like courses, one after the other. My husband happily ate each one as it came, while I refrained, waiting for the main course. At some point I realized that there was no main course.
I cannot lie, it’s still frustrating. Sometimes, I have overwhelming dark days of discouragement. But they aren’t frequent, they don’t last long, and usually I can follow God’s bread crumbs out into the light again, feeling a tiny bit stronger and wiser and a tiny bit more able to love. Grace can turn dark times into what stretches us and increases our capacity not only for persevering, but for joy and love.
Some of those bread crumbs are found in blogs I follow. Two particularly (but not limited to these) are: Unshakable Hope and Make Believe Boutique
The many sources of bread crumbs vary greatly from Scripture, nature, friends, books, movies, TV, dreams, memories, and even the comic strips. When we look for God’s breadcrumbs, they are everywhere.