Yesterday, I was talking with a thoughtful person who works for a high-powered company. His insight is that, even though this is a solid company for which he likes to work, there is a problem. That problem, very obvious to him, is this: the end-point or goal of the company is to make money.
His point was this: Making money, a thousand years ago, used to be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Now people in modern cultures do not even think twice about this. The central goal of too many companies is to make money.
When means to ends (such as making money) become desired ends, then our purpose in life can get fuzzy. After all, if the means is the end we have stood our priorities on their heads and so our quest for genuine meaning in this life gets obscure.
When we do not know why we are here, we feel pain and experience confusion. When the pain and confusion settle in, there tends to be a quest for diversion, entertainment, a moment’s pleasure spent to block the pain and avoid thinking about the confusion.
Diversions themselves now have become a large part of our ends in modern societies. After all, how much per capita per year is spent on entertainments and diversions? When diversions then become ends, we weaken in persistence toward meaningful goals. After all, diversions call for change, variety, pumping adrenaline for a few hours of pain reduction.
When we lose sight of true goals and fall into diversions and fall into the trap of constant variety, we lose our sense of persistence and our strong will weakens.
So, then, what does all of this have to do with forgiveness? Precisely this: I have seen that too many people come rushing into the practice of forgiveness with enthusiasm and passion, but then just cannot sustain the effort over months and years as they quest for the next “new thing.” And even that “new thing” gets old fast when diversion and pleasure and money-making are the culturally-created ends.
And so forgiveness does not mature and when the pains of injustice come, there is no strength to meet the pains with mercy and love and so the pains are passed to others who now must divert from their pain…..and on it goes.
We need, first, insight that this is happening. Then we need to take a courageous look at our wills to persevere in the necessary issues that make us and others more human and forgiveness is one of these. And we need to persevere in these necessary issues and not let diversions dominate….for the good of humanity. Long live forgiveness. Long live our pursuit of it.
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.
This journey we call forgiveness is not a straight path to the end with joy awaiting you. Instead, if you are like the rest of us, you will start and stop and start again a number of times before you arrive, safe, at the journey’s end. You will be making great progress and then have a dream about the person and wake up angry all over again. You will think you have conquered only to meet again the person who hurts you, and there is the anger. Or, it is a special holiday and you reflect back on your life hoping for peace and instead get a piece of the person’s own anger, and once again you are angry. The forgiveness path is like this and so please be gentle with yourself. Just start again with this person by examining the nature of your wounds now, assess what kind of work you need to do (more love? more merciful restraint?) and continue.
Timing is amazing sometimes. We posted a blog essay yesterday (just below this one) on three reasons why quick forgiveness is not necessarily “phony forgiveness” and we then came across this story: “Parents no longer forgive shooter of teen.”
Apparently, parents of a slain youth retracted their forgiveness toward the man who shot him.
We would like to claim that their first overture of forgiveness seems very sincere based on the news story. We have to remember our second point in the earlier blog post: psychological defenses are sometimes strong when tragedy strikes. As they lessen, anger rises. Now the deep work of forgiveness might begin….in time. And one more point: Even a retraction of forgiveness is not necessarily a final word on the matter.
Busy….busy….busy. No time to just sit and abide in each other’s presence. With all of our labor saving devices it is hard to believe that we have so little time for each other on a deep, meaningful level.
This can be corrected by willing a change.
We at the International Forgiveness Institute suggest a 10 minute (or more if the conversation develops) couples forgiveness retreat once a week. Set the day and time and will to stick with it. In that time, discuss your hurts from the past week. Who hurt you and how were you hurt? What did you do about it? Is forgiveness on your radar now or are you perhaps planning to put it on your radar for discussion and work toward forgiving? Support your partner in his or her struggle to forgive. Be a forgiveness motivator and even a forgiveness inspiration.
It takes a strong will to do this. The rewards may themselves strengthen your will to pursue this little weekly retreat on a regular basis.