When we are treated unjustly by another, then perhaps it is that other person who has moved us around as if we were toy soldiers. It is at this time that resentment can take hold of us and if we are not able now to competitively move our injurer around like a toy soldier, we dig the trench of resentment and stay there for the battle.
If the other does not apologize, we do not want to budge from our pride-trench. The central problem of waiting for the other to admit defeat is this: Too often those who hurt us do not apologize.
What we need is an antidote to pride, something that will extend a warm hand and help us out of the trench. The antidote is the virtue of humility, a virtue that the philosopher Nietzsche looked on with distain, calling it a “monkish virtue.” It is apparent that Nietzsche’s philosophy valued power and so he wanted nothing to do with humility.
The major problem with detesting humility is that sometimes the other’s power over us remains, despite our best efforts. If all we have left is our pride-trench, then the other’s power could defeat us in an emotional sense as we develop unhealthy anger and even anxiety and depression.
To combat the barrier of pride, we need to value and practice humility, that sense that we need not always get our way and that power is an impostor not worthy of following. With humility, we do not meet power with power. Yes, we meet power with a call for justice, but this is very different from pride, which calls for its pound of flesh from the other. Once we have developed the virtue of humility, which gets us out of our pride-trench, we are free to begin forgiving, which can actually eliminate the resentment so that it no longer has power over us.
“A little hatred goes a long, long way. It grows and grows. And it’s hungry. You keep feeding it more and more people, and the more it gets, the more it wants. It’s never satisfied. And pretty soon it squeezes all the love out of your heart and all you’ll have left is a hateful heart.” –Jerry Spinelli in Love, Stargirl
In other words, hatred is an insatiable monster that demands its supposed due. When people hate, they can all too easily create the rationalization that the other deserves bad things, deserves to be punished…..and by the one who hates.
Hatred clouds the mind as it freezes the heart. And it does so slowly enough that the one now with the clouds and freezings was not even aware of this progression from a sunny mind and a warm heart. Yet, it can happen. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; the final scene in Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book; the list is long.
Eventually, hatred becomes self-righteous; the person believes deep within the self that the hatred is not only justified but also moral. It becomes a quest and even a way of life…….until it turns on the one with the self-righteousness and the sense of the moral quest…..and destroys him.
With hatred, forgiveness is not allowed to grow. With courage, a person can begin to see hatred within and stand against it, giving forgiveness a chance to grow and to redeem and to lighten and to unthaw.
Stand so that you do not become a part of that disorder.
Forgive so that you put love into a situation that could break you, that could make you disordered.
Love persistently so that you put goodness back into a world that is tempting you toward anger and bitterness.
Wait for love to come to you and keep your heart soft through forgiveness so that you are able to receive that love when it is offered to you.
There are moments when the human body may be stripped of its physical skills, but the human spirit is not broken.
Here is the story of a lady who is a testament to that. The year was 1989 and 26-year-old Laura Chagnon was merely walking down a Boston street. She didn’t know that would be the day her life would take a 180 degree turn. She was the victim of a senseless assault by one or more people; the detectives never caught the individual(s).
More important was the result, one minute ambulatory, Laura was now quadriplegic, legally blind with a head injury. To this day, her short-term memory is not very good. She was in a coma for 5 weeks and came out of it feeling a sense of loss. Her legs were no longer her legs because now she could not walk. She could no longer use her hands.
Four years in physical rehabilitation facilities followed. Doctors told her parents that her cognitive ability was minimal and to save the aggravation and put her in an institution for the rest of her life. They refused, their unconditional love was stronger than the doctor’s advice. The doctors said Laura would be a vegetable, still her parents would not break.
In 1993, Laura returned to live at home with her parents. She had caregivers around the clock to be her eyes and hands. She would not let life be a pity party and wanted to be a productive member of society. Laura started to dictate sentences to her caregivers and the sentences evolved into poems. One poem after another, each day more poems. Now, her identity changed, she didn’t feel like a quadriplegic woman, she proudly said she was a poet. Laura’s poems were of very good quality and were printed in local newspapers. She told people she was some day going to be a published poet with her book of poetry to be shared with the world.
She had no malice for whomever assaulted her. Laura simply said, “I traded my legs for the opportunity to write poetry.”
Let’s fast forward to the present. Laura has written over 5,000 poems. The doctors would be astonished. She is a shining example of overcoming adversity and not ever doubting the human spirit. Oh, by the way, that crazy dream of hers, to become a published poet: Laura met a publisher in June of 2013. He read some of her poems and was amazed. He said, “Laura Chagnon deserves to be published.”
For more than 20 years, her poetry was basically a well kept secret. If you read her works, I think you would agree she can hold her own with any poet out there. Now anybody can be the judge of that. Her published book, “Never Touched A Pen” the inspiring poetry of Laura Chagnon can be ordered at www.civinmediarelations.com.
Guest Blog by Stacy Parker Le Melle
I know that forgiveness is crucial to human harmony. I know I’m supposed to forgive my trespassers. But when called upon to actually forgive, I may be good at “letting go” and “moving on” but does anyone’s name ever leave that ledger inside my mind, the one that keeps track of those who have hurt me? I’m not sure. Though I know that forgiveness is the path to peace, the operative word–still– is know. Action is something else altogether.
Then I read a poem by Massoma, a writer in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. I am floored. I have read this poem multiple times, and each time I am struck not just by what she has been through, but her generosity–the depth of which seems hard for me to even comprehend:
Forgiveness: A Prose Poem
My head exploded, full of their talking, talking. They talked and talked and sold me. They laughed, happy. I was sad and crying, had no power over this. I played, the child I was. I played, but had to go toward the life that would be mine. My head exploded, full of new talking. They talked and talked. I was not a good bride. I was not a perfect woman, because I was thirteen. My head exploded, full of their talking. They talked and talked and beat me. Filled with pain, I was a mother, but had nothing. I had forgiven, all of my life, move now toward my future, happy. My head exploded. My head exploded. I love my infant, my family. I have forgiven all–parents, husband, the government. I am happy. My baby laughs and I laugh. Life laughs, and I am happy.
Her baby laughs and she laughs. Life laughs, and she is happy. The beauty and hard-won hope in those lines fill me with awe. I am reminded of the greatness that humans have within them–because for me, this is greatness. If Massoma can forgive those who forced her to marry as a child, who treated her as chattel, who beat her when she disobeyed, I call on all of us to look at pains we carry, at the anger we can’t let go, and challenge ourselves to seek healing–to call on our reserves of love. And release.
Stacy Parker Le Melle is Workshop Director for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and Author of “Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House.”
The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is a California-based organization whose mission is to support the voices of women with the belief that to tell one’s story is a human right. The Campaign for Love and Forgiveness is sponsored by the Fetzer Institute.
This blog is a shortened version of the original blog that was posted on June 13, 2013, in the Global Motherhood section of The Huffington Post.