Yesterday was July 12, the day in which Loyalists in Northern Ireland celebrate the victory of King William of Orange against King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The fight was for control of at least a part of Ireland either by British Protestants or Irish Catholics. The island has been politically divided in various ways since that time.
Each July 12 there are parades which commemorate this event in Belfast, Northern Ireland and other communities. Some of the Loyalists (British) this year wanted to march through a Catholic neighborhood in north Belfast. They were denied. The result? Anger and rioting with more than 30 police officers hurt as reported by the BBC.
I am doing the math here. That is 323 years ago. And there seems to be a replay of animosity that likely took place near the River Boyne at the time of the battle.
Anger has a way of living on. It is like a virus, continually jumping to new hosts to stay alive.
Through forgiveness. Forgiveness stops the spread of anger and puts compassion, patience, and mercy into the situation where there was hatred, dissension, and violence before.
Let us reflect on that one number for a while—–1690.
With good forgiveness education and a will to stop the virus, where will Belfast be in 2090?
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.
While talking with a friend recently who has had his share of injustices, he made an insightful comment which may prove helpful for you. Several years ago he had a break-up with a friend, a long-standing friend. To mask the pain of this break-up, as he explained it, he basically put the person and the event out of his mind, not to be cruel but only because the friendship seems to have dissolved. He refers to this state as “sleepwalking.”
Yet, two patterns are worth noting. First, whenever he meets this friend, the pain and anger well up within him again. It is as if his sleepwalking abruptly ends, he awakens with anger, and then goes back to sleepwalking when not in the friend’s presence once again.
A second pattern is this: When the friend makes overtures to reconcile, it is precisely at that time when the anger wells up the greatest, with great pain and suffering. Why? I think it is because the full weight of the injustice is now felt because of the contrast between the abandoning state and the state of mutual love and respect. That contrast at that moment is very intense.
So, for you, the reader, I have this suggestion. Are you sleepwalking through an unjust event with someone? “How do I know?” you might say. Here is a test: Quiet yourself and then with concentrated effort, imagine this person coming back to you in a repentant way, in a way that says, “I did wrong and would like to reconcile.” In that state ask yourself, “How angry am I now?”
If you are very angry, especially compared to when you are sleepwalking, then let this be a sign to you that you are harboring more anger than you realize. Your degree of forgiveness while in your sleepwalking state may not be complete forgiveness. You may have more resentment in there than you think and if so, more forgiveness work may be necessary.
With this knowledge, work on forgiving this person so that the next time you meet, you are not jolted from your sleepwalking….and if he or she truly wishes to reconcile, you will not bolt awake as if now in the nightmare. Your forgiveness work will help you to walk while wide awake, with reduced anger, ready to offer goodness rather than anger to this person.
I perused Wikipedia today for information on “survival kits.” Here are a few tidbits: salt (yup, it prevents death in case of cholera), laser pointer (for superior long-range signaling), large plastic trash bag (as a poncho), ladder (ladder, oh, sorry, this one is only for lifeboats).
Because of the efforts of Josiah Cheapoo who runs Grace Network, and others at The Crossing, the International Forgiveness Institute, and the University of Wisconsin (all in Madison, Wisconsin, USA), a bold forgiveness education initiative has begun in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.
Liberia has emerged from a horrendous civil war in which over 250,000 people were killed. It took the efforts of some very brave women to stand in the chasm between the warlords and the innocent citizens to finally end the war.
Part of the reconstruction effort now is forgiveness education for children so that they can grow up with a sense of the inherent worth of all.?? It is hard to capture, torture, and kill someone whom you see as possessing the exact same precious inherent worth as you. Forgiveness education emphasizes this kind of thinking toward all.
To date, Mr. Cheapoo has been able to establish six “Community Centers” in which children gather to learn the life-giving principles of forgiveness. They learn the inherent worth of others by reading stories of Dr. Seuss and seeing how all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
Within these centers, 600 children are beginning to learn the lessons of forgiveness. We are also planning a “pen-pal” program among four 11th grade classrooms in Monrovia and one 11th grade classroom at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin.
We want students on each side of the globe to see a different perspective on life so that their views can be challenged, enriched, and begin to include the concept of forgiveness in their everyday lives.
We can’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow always is filled with hope when forgiveness accompanies us on our life’s journey.
Editor’s Note: Read a related story in the Forgiveness News section of this website: “Forgiveness and New Skills in Liberia, Africa.”