A good heart first has suffered. In the suffering, the person knows that all on this planet are subjected to suffering and so his heart is compassionate, patient, supportive, and loving as best he can in this fallen world. The good heart is forgiving, ever forgiving, vigilant in forgiving. The good heart tries to be in service to others. The good heart is no longer afraid of suffering and has joy because of the suffering, not in spite of it. Having suffered and having passed through suffering, the good heart dances. Others do not understand the good, joyous heart. Yet, the one with the good heart does not compromise the goodness and the joy. It is like a valuable gift received and she knows it.
We all quest after these three qualities of life: truth, goodness, and beauty. Too often, those who hurt us are not standing in the truth of who we are, they are not behaving in a morally good way toward us, and the outcome surely is not beautiful.
Those who hurt us leave a mess behind: a distortion of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Truth tells us who we are as persons. We are all special, unique, and irreplaceable. All persons have inherent worth.
Goodness conforms to truth. When we realize that all persons are special and possess inherent worth, our response of goodness should include fairness toward all as well as kindness, respect, generosity, and love.
Beauty is defined by goodness. If we are to respond to others with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love, then we have to express this well from the heart.
So, how do we clean up the mess left behind by those who are cruel?
We should try to forgive with truth, goodness, and beauty. How do we do this?
In truth, we have to start forgiveness by understanding it clearly. Even when someone is cruel to us, the truth is that this person is special, unique, and irreplaceable. Even if this person has hurt us, he/she has inherent worth.
In goodness, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of goodness compels us to respond with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love. Yes, even toward those who are cruel to us.
In beauty, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of beauty is to transform our hearts so that all of the goodness is not forced but is given willingly as a gift to that person.
As we apply truth, goodness, and beauty to those who have acted unfairly toward us, we not only help to clean up the mess left behind but also we are doing our part to make the world a more beautiful place.
From the pen of Patrick Wells, producer, director, video journalist:
“Formal Forgiveness Education, invented by Robert Enright, is the best idea the Human Race has had since Jesus preached Forgiveness.”
Many people on the planet continue to exist within a tribe, sect, gang, race or mentality, unable to overcome hatred or prejudice against another group. This frequently manifests itself as violence. Learning how to forgive may be the best and fastest way to end systemic negativity against “other peoples.”
The best opportunity we have is to treat forgiveness as a skill and teach it at an early age in our elementary schools. If we can convince our children of the power and importance of forgiveness, when they become adults they will certainly be able to make effective use of this vital skill.
“Forgiveness has the potential to transform our communities that have not known peace for decades and reshape our world.”
First published in WashingtonPost.com, 2010. Read the full article: “Embracing Forgiveness Education to Reshape our World.”
I first met Rev. Tutu in March, 1995. Well, I did not exactly meet him….I met his voice. We were holding the first conference on person-to-person forgiveness ever held at any university in the world and we were doing so at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rev. Tutu was kind enough to give the opening remarks by recorded audio to what now is an historical event–the first academic forgiveness conference.
I was immediately impressed with his warmth and wisdom. He talked of the African word ubuntu, of how we are all persons because of other persons. He urged us all to try to overcome the animosities that have wounded the world because of a lack of forgiveness. It was a challenge that is still with me, 19 years later.
Rev. Tutu recently has expanded his vision of stopping animosities worldwide by asking all of us to take the bold step of trying to learn to forgive as a global calling—for each of us—now—-for the good of humanity as well as for ourselves as we unburden from resentments that can pollute human interactions.
The new plan, announced recently by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu, concerns the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive.
The 30-day program is based on a systematic process of forgiving that the Tutus present in their new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Healing Our World.
We have seen how Rev. Tutu guided the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with such compassion as he absorbed a country’s intense pain borne out of grave injustice. We have read his book, No Future without Forgiveness. He has lived forgiveness. He has embodied it. We can’t wait for his global initiative. We hope you take a look and benefit from a man and his daughter who have known suffering.
Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century popularized a view of the world that he called the Will to Power. His was a response to the emerging Darwinist view of evolution that there is a Will to Survive by all living things, not deliberately conscious (because, for example, blades of grass or turtles do not consciously reflect on such a will to survive). For Nietzsche, the Will to Survive was not, well, powerful enough to explain how living organisms and systems work. Grasses do not only struggle to live, but to expand territory by pushing out other living forms for a larger habitat. Thus, even grass has the Will to Power, to control or even to (again unconsciously) dominate.
Viktor Frankl, a psychoanalytic psychologist, imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II, had a direct response to Nietzsche by saying that the primary human force is the Will to Meaning, a will to make sense out of life and particularly out of suffering. Finding meaning, not a specific meaning common to all people, but finding a meaning itself has the survival value. As people think of life as meaningless, then they die. Yet, this contentless Will to Meaning has a contradiction in it. It cannot be opposing Nietzsche’s Will to Power if, in finding meaning, one person’s meaning for life is to gain more influence over another. In other words, Frankl’s deliberately contentless theme of the Will to Meaning must accommodate the content in some people’s minds that the Will to Power is their own personal meaning to life. It is the way the world works, at least as some people try to make meaning out of a cruel world. Yet, Frankl’s view, I think, is a developmentally more sophisticated worldview because it makes room for much more than the brutish vying for dominance and control in the world.
Jesus Christ, in contrast to Nietzsche and Frankl, has a different worldview. It is the Will to Love. Others, of course, have said this, too, but we must be scholarly here and give credit to the original proclamations. This Will to Love consciously repudiates the need to dominate, to seek power. Even if Nietzsche is correct that the Will to Power typifies the untrained, under-developed will of humanity, Christ’s challenge is to overcome that. Nietzsche, in other words, takes what is and mistakenly presumes that this is what ought to be. Frankl, in contrast, takes what is (we are presuming for now that the Will to Power is a natural tendency in humans) and is showing us that we can fill in the blank with other, perhaps better content when we ask, “What is the meaning of life and suffering for me?” Christ, in contrast to Frankl, and in common with Nietzsche, commits to one particular content—in this case, love—as the central Will for humanity.
It seems to me that we have a developmental progression here in terms of a greater fulfillment of humanity, the fulfillment of who we are as persons. We start in the mire of a Will to Power and can do great damage if we stay there, and if the world stays there. The Will to Meaning is a transition in that it takes us out of the inevitability of seeking power. The Will to Love, which honors the life of all, is the highest of these world views. Why? Because it is the only one of the three that is intimately concerned about all life. If humanity will survive, our questing after the Will to Power is a dangerous path because in its conscious, extreme form, it destroys others so that one’s own domain can expand.
To those like Nietzsche who think that love and the equality of persons is a weakened view of humanity, my response is this: How are you distorting the moral virtue of love? How are you misunderstanding it? To love is to help with the survival of all others, not to destroy for one’s own survival, dominance, and control. In the seeking of others’ betterment, one finds vitality and joy and gives the freedom to others to do the same. The Will to Love is the only assurance of survival and the thriving of all, including the self.
Which of these world views will you bring to others today?