I’ve heard of UUs who consider forgiveness as a “spiritual practice.” While I admire those who are diligent in their own personal spiritual practices, I think putting forgiveness in that box is inviting us to exercise that particular set of muscles as we do any exercise: either sporadically or with an “ought to” discipline. These ideas makes forgiveness either optional or mandatory. I think forgiveness ought to be in a category such as breathing: we do it not because it is good or right, but because it is necessary.
When there are particularly ugly scenes in this house, one of the phrases I’ve recently started using is: “I think there is enough wrong to go around, here. Is it worth ruining a relationship to stay stubborn and unwilling to offer an apology.” Or some such. I’ve been startled that it works at ratcheting down the rhetoric more often than it doesn’t–actually, now that I consider it, I believe it has worked each time I’ve offered it up. It is a variety of the “would you rather be loved or right?”
It used to bug people around me how often I would say “I’m sorry” in a day. I learned to apologize for that, as well. But I think I’m learning now that I need not apologize for being sad for someone, or for trying to right a wrong I committed with or without malice aforethought. Maybe forgiveness is who I am, as it appears to be what I do all the time.
I do not see it as a sign of weakness to be sorry for someone else’s fuck up. I see as a sign of weakness when we can not get over our own smallness and see that injury happens in clusters, not always in a straight line.
We are all wounded; we are all wounders. We are also all wonders of adaptability, of tenacity, of mercy.
Of course, these were my thoughts BEFORE I read the story of the 9/11 baby shot dead while learning about democracy.
I am brought back to my favorite line from “The Knight’s Tale,” when William is found out and his friends urge him to run away rather than be sent to the stocks. He turns to Chaucer and asks “would you have me run, then?” and Chaucer says “with all the pieces of my heart.”
It makes me cry every time–and sometimes when I only think of it. We walk around with our hearts in pieces most of the time, I think, by acts of violence on people we don’t know or may never know. Tonight, I am wishing peace to those who seek it, love to those who wish it, and forgiveness to those who require it–with all the pieces of my heart.