You tell me to forgive them
But sometimes it’s so hard
To let go of some of the things that people do
You’d have to be a god
If I loved them and I healed them
And then they turned on me
It’d be better for them if I stayed dead
Because they’d never get away from me
I could not have your power
And deal with what you did
And yet I say I follow you
Who am I trying to kid?
That’s why I still need you to hold me
To keep me in your embrace
To lift me when I can’t lift myself
And shower me with your grace
The above poem pretty much sums up why I seek Christ. Rather than being an original part of the book, it was actually written to accompany a sermon I did based on the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I’ve been meditating on those words for over 30 years. Ever since I realized that my brother and my fighting would never end as long as I kept hitting him back, I have been using those words as the kind of “true north” of my conscience and my consciousness. Whenever I find myself agitated and incapable of saying those words, then I know I have some more work to do on myself. Even though I hate the idea of a crucified savior of the world or even the fact that God’s world needs saving at all, I cannot deny my experience that people do great harm to one another and that most of it is cyclical. I’ve seen many hurt people hurt people. Some people are so used to being hurt that they live in anticipation of it, often see it when it isn’t even there, and may even go so far as to push others to hurt them in order to confirm the only reality that they have ever known. I know this first hand and in my experience the idea of Jesus saying, “I am no longer going to contribute to this cycle.” through his willingness to forgive has been the only thing to really work effectively in my own walk.
As the poem demonstrates, I still get stuck on some issues. Especially since becoming a father, I have found that I need to ramp up my forgiveness practice more and more. I do not anticipate getting to a point where I will no longer need to work on this, because new things show up everyday. I am not just talking about things in my personal life. I see it as my job to forgive anything that disturbs me–anything that agitates my soul and tempts me to look away from the world that Jesus saw where God loves those who do evil with the same love as those who do what we call good. I should say that I am not delusional, thinking that the world is going to become some utopia where people will be singing happy songs and there will be no pain and yet I work toward it because I am certain that the alternative is less promising. We already know what doesn’t work in this world. And yet we still do it. So the way I see it, is that forgiveness is the most viable option.
So as hard as it can seem sometimes, I am committed to the practice. But I should say, that forgiveness doesn’t mean anything goes and that there are no efforts to correct those who harm. In my practice, it simply means that people who do evil are ignorant. I forgive their ignorance and clean myself from using my pain to justify my reactions. If I do that then I am doing nothing other than justifying whatever harm they cause based on their pain. It is a cycle. So what I do instead is to seek forgiveness first. Then out of that space, I will take the corrective actions that are in my power to perform. Hopefully I am working out of inspiration so that I can trust that whatever I do is born of the love out of which the person/offender is created. The hope is that what I offer helps wake the person up to their own inner reality. If you’ve ever dealt with someone on drugs who is detoxing, you know that helping them can take a lot of forgiveness and that in order to keep them straight, you sometimes have to look like a real a**hole to get them to see the harm they are doing to themselves and others. The whole point is that whatever you do is out of love and toward that persons healing. Surgery could be another good analogy where you look to hurt someone when it is for their own good. Forgiveness can often manifest like spiritual surgery. It starts by working on yourself which then prepares you to work for others. That’s how I work with Jesus. I see him as the forgiveness master that undoes the cycle of pain perpetuating pain. When I get hurt I turn to him. It helps to draw me out of myself and toward that higher way of being that he offers. No matter how much I feel sorry for myself sometimes for being the person taking responsibility for forgiveness in some situations, I know that it is the Way. Ultimately it is all I have to offer.