I have recently completed the reading of ‘The Book of Forgiving’ by Desmond and Mpho Tutu and my mind is forever changed. Whilst I knew the benefits of forgiveness before and tried to practice same; there are so many little nuances they provided in the book. It led me to completely rethink how I perceive and practice the whole process…..
Anyhow, I want to speak about the aspect of our shared humanity. We at times tend to believe life is a zero sum game, a one-sided coin with some of us being on one side and others on the other.. I have lived long enough to know that’s a lie……we can be on any side at any time. So many things have happened in the week since I read this book that I have to reflect. Two people I know were involved in an accident this week. The victim died on impact and has predeceased a common law partner, young kids, other relatives and friends. That grief I know, is immeasurable and indescribable, especially because it happened right at home and not least of which is the untimely and unexpected nature of it. As they morph their way through the stages of grief and the pain of this experience I hardly think that any words can suffice…..only God’s grace can fill this void.
But then we must never forget the perpetrator which we almost always tend to, because somehow we forget it is an accident and he is a human being. This is hard for him too and there is grief and pain for him to carry the rest of his days……his family and friends will not be unscathed either. However, depending on who we are we tend to split things down the middle and take sides……and that’s the issue I am having with this particular case. I don’t know who to feel more empathy for…..or even if I should. My compassion I believe, should be shared equally. I pray for peace and justice, love, support and the beauty of the human spirit to permeate both sides as well as that God’s perfect will be done. I understand the demonstrations in support of the victim, but I also feel the pain of the perpetrator not knowing what the future holds……shattered dreams and broken visions in a moment. Sigh…….Life is hard; I could easily have been either or…… and nothing can change what has happened we just need to find a new normal.
According to the Tutus, one way to process this is to think about our shared humanity…..in this case, both sides need healthy doses of forgiving to move on and heal. The problem is that, this is not the path of least resistance and people usually see this walk in forgiveness as something for Christians only on the one hand, and on the other as the weaker alternative. On days like this I wish I could wave a magic wand…….because I feel so helpless and because I know differently. Except I must never forget my role……which is limited to what God wants me to do…..and not to try to usurp him. I cannot carpet the world……..so I must wear socks. I only pray that good sense will prevail in this situation and in the many other cases that abound…..as I know the natural tendency is to retaliate and be vindictive.
Situations like these, seem to be the daily grind- the bane of our existence. We have to be constantly choosing between good or evil……no breaks or sabbatical. There are many other instances that we can all name of how things are never black and white. Empathy, courage, authenticity, forgiveness, surrender etc do not come naturally for us it seems, it requires practice. There are people I have to forgive daily, I have to choose courage moment by moment, never grow weary of being compassionate, show up each day, do what I have to and be real but only with the knowledge that I do all things, only through Christ who strengthens me………… But when you think of it, how else do we practice but to experience the cut and grind, ebb and flow of life. That said, I pray that my experiences do not carry me to the cleaners too often or even if they do, I pray I will never forget in whom I trust.