The prayer attributed to St. Francis — Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace — has hovered at the edge of my awareness since childhood, when I first saw it on a plaque in my small-town Methodist church fellowship hall.
I’m still working on forgiveness, whose longstanding shortfall in me toward those who support(ed) BushCo threatens my undoing. I want to applaud daylight dawning on anyone. Really.
On the one hand, Hunter masterfully, justifiably, and with much truth today puts words to the phenomenon of people insisting they’re right even when they’re demonstrably wrong. I like being right, too, but “right” needs to mean “the assessment nearly all people of good will, clear thinking, and command of facts inevitably converge to,” as is now happening about BushCo [as evidenced by its plummeting poll numbers]. When discernment [finally] trumps deception, of course that’s a good thing, a wise thing. The earlier on, the better.
OTOH, spiritual health and community are more important than [kudos for] “being right.” And forgiving, yea, even forgiving willful dumbassery, past and present, is a prerequisite for both. Vengeance, I finally remember, is not mine.
In the process of working on forgiveness, still becoming — on the inside, and maybe soon, on the outside — a Quaker (which may or may not entail giving up use of the word “dumbassery”). You know that eerie, wonderful homecoming feeling you sometimes get as you learn more about something? Like, “Dear God, have I been a Quaker all my life, but didn’t know it?”
What’s being impressed upon me today, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Nobel laureate, says well, speaking to the perennial assumption that has undergirded support for this war, that “if only we can get rid of those people, then we will all be safe and happy” (as reported by Anne in Friends Journal, Becoming an Instrument of Peace):
If only it were so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were simply necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who among us are willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?
Anne’s experiential vignettes concerning becoming an instrument of peace in the midst of war are speaking to my condition today:
To walk a path of peace in a country that is deeply involved in war brings us to our growing edge.
Yes. As in, for example, growing a commitment to forgiveness where there was none. Then Anne pinpoints where I’m mostly still at in her observation —
My self-righteousness has the poisonous high of an addiction: I like it and I know that I have to root it out of my life. Over and over and over.
Building bridges instead of burning them is such a better plan.
Walking a path of peace sometimes brings us not just to our growing edge, as Anne says, but to our dying edge, too. Rest in peace, Tom Fox. Thank you for your work, your life, and your example.
2006-03-13 update after more thinking:
So where does justice fit in? In all my “foolish talk” about forgiveness, am I whitewashing over BushCo immorality and crimes against God and humanity (e.g., fiscal irresponsibility, destroying creation, screwing the poor, spying illegally, bearing false witness, war, torture)? Are they not accountable?
Here’s where I’m at today: I think if “justice roll[s] down like waters,” then BushCo and enablers will be repaid. Here’s the kicker: But not by me. According to scripture, God says, “I will repay.” Who do I think I am? My job is to lift up, care for, forgive.
(Sometimes I daydream, wondering if it’s as hard for God “to avenge” as it is for me to forgive. In each case, the action seems to run counter to our natures. Mystery indeed.)
As to whether we should be confronting others in their complicity, I observe that all evidence needed to see is already in front of us. Are not those with eyes to see, seeing? Can anyone be forced to see? I think not: we have to be wooed to see. (Still thinking. Insight welcome.)
2006-09-27 update (months later during a Quaker Spirituality class):
I’m clued in enough to recognize in my class reading today that Quaker author Parker Palmer is most definitely speaking to me:
When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless — a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need. …
When the gift I give to the other is integral to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself — and me — even as I give it away. Only when I give something that does not grow within me do I deplete myself and harm the other as well, for only harm can come from a gift that is forced, inorganic, unreal.
—Let Your Life Speak, Parker J. Palmer (1999), pp. 48–50
What I’m not sure of is whether this applies in the case of forgiving, especially forgiving those who advocate torture, etc.
Months after I wrote the article above, my hellbent determination to forgive when no forgiveness is forthcoming does indeed appear to me “forced, inorganic, unreal.” Is my forced determination coming more from “my need to prove myself” than from “the other’s need to be [forgiven]”? I think it is.
For if I’m truthful, I must acknowledge I have reached the limit of my own capacity to forgive. What has been done in my name — making war based on false witness, torturing, maiming, killing — is for me, for now, unforgiveable. I hadn’t considered I may be causing harm by pretending otherwise.