I go to the local gym frequently because I must stay as fit as I can for world travel centered on forgiveness education presentations. This is a very popular gym that frequently has 100 people working out at any one time. So, you get to see varying levels of fitness by the patrons of the gym.
One thing I have noticed over the past two years is this: there is a particular group of people, in a younger generation (I do not want to specify which generation this is), who can do, at most, about 6 push-ups at any one time. I am talking about the group as a whole; I am not just singling out one or two people…..and I am not doing this to criticize them.
I bring this up for the following reason: Somehow, in this particular generation (because it is common to every one of the gym patrons I have seen over a two-year period) the people (as students growing up) were never challenged in their education to do push-ups. My generation, in contrast, had what they used to call the Marine Corp Physical Fitness challenge during gym class. The challenge consisted of doing 60 push-ups at any one time. It is painfully obvious to me, as I walk through this gym, that the idea of doing 60 push-ups in a row was absent during their educational years…….and the consequence is that they cannot. Their upper bodies are not strong and this seems to hold across the board for all whom I see in this generation.
And this brings me to the point of this blog. If we do not challenge children to learn about forgiveness, to practice it, to stay at it, then when they are adults and are hurt by injustices, they will be weak in their response. They will not know how to forgive, they may not stay at it. Not being able to do push-ups is hardly an inconvenience in modern First-World societies. Not being able to forgive could be deadly.
What we do in schools matters for adulthood. Do educators really know the consequences of not encouraging students to do their forgiveness “push-ups”?
We need forgiveness education…………now.
Lance Morrow: “Evil possesses an instinct for theater, which is why, in an era of gaudy and gifted media, evil may vastly magnify its damage by the power of horrific images.” If this is true, we need forgiveness all the more in our times.
Forgiveness is not justice and therefore focuses on effects, not direct solutions to injustice. When injustice reigns, it surely is the duty of communities to exercise justice to counter that which is unjust.
Yet, what then of the effects of the injustice? Will the quest for and the establishment of justice in societies suffice to cure the broken heart? We think not and this is where forgiveness is needed for those who choose it.
Is there a better way of destroying the damaging effects of evil than forgiveness? As a mode of peace, forgiveness is a paradox because at the same time it is a weapon, one that fights against the ravages of evil. By destroying resentment, forgiveness is a protection for individuals, families, groups, and societies.
In today’s news, we read that Israel and Hamas are on the brink of all-out-war. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, today one group is verbally threatening violence because a parade commission banned them from a particular parade route. Anger. Toxic anger. It is at the heart of war. Yes, there are land disputes and ethnic disputes adding to the war and threat of violence, but disputes can be handled without violence…..if the hearts are without toxic anger. Our science shows this: forgiveness education reduces toxic anger. We need forgiveness education…..now….so that future generations can be protected from angry hearts in those who hold power. Maybe they will use their power more wisely when schooled in forgiveness.
Let us start with the prophetic words of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as he mourns the passing of Lady Macbeth in Act 5, Scene 5:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
There is no meaning in life and therefore there is no meaning in suffering. To live and to suffer are meaning-less. Yet, experience tells us that this kind of thinking is a dangerous illusion. Did Martin Luther King, Jr. have no meaning when he wrote his Letter from the Birmingham jail? Did Maximilian Kolbe see no meaning in life when he asked the Nazis to let him take the place of a condemned man who had a family? Whether one’s beliefs are in God or in random variations generated by mutations, we are either made for or have evolved toward finding meaning in our life. The skeptic would say that my point is a happy illusion: Yes, we need to believe this, but we do so just to stay alive; it is adaptive to think fairytale thoughts.
Yet, what else in nature can you identify that is so very important and at the same time is an illusion? I can think of nothing. If finding and having meaning is tied to our well-being, then there must be something to it. The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz (which Maximilian Kolbe chose not to survive for a higher good of protecting another person), observed this: Only those who survived Auschwitz found meaning in the profound suffering endured there. Those who found meaninglessness died. Finding meaning in this case was tied to positive, concrete outcomes. There was a need (to find meaning) that was fulfilled (surviving and even thriving). Can you think of any other real need that is not tied to something real that can fulfill it? If not, then it seems reasonable to say that we have real needs with real fulfillments and finding meaning and achieving the state of thriving are concretely, really linked together without illusion.
When we are treated deeply unjustly by others, we suffer. If we have come, through wisdom, to know the meaning of life, then we will find meaning in our suffering. If we find meaning in both life and suffering, we have the foundation to forgive well and to survive well the cruelty against us.
Sound and fury, signifying nothing? Please be careful in so concluding.
Forgiveness is not finished with you yet. How will you lead your life from this point forward? It is your choice. When that story is finally written, what will the final chapters say about you? The beauty of this story is that you are one of the contributing authors. You do not write it alone, of course, but with the help of those who encourage you, instruct and guide you, and even hurt you. You are never alone when it comes to your love story. It does not matter one little bit where the story was going before you embraced the virtue of forgiveness. What matters now is how you finish that story, how you start to live your life from this point forward.
What do you think? Do you think that most people are deliberately and consciously writing their own love stories, in part on the basis of leading The Forgiving Life? Or, are most people rushing by, not giving much thought to forgiveness or love?
What do you think? Do you think that most people are aware of their legacy, what they will leave behind from this precise moment on, or are they rushing about, not giving a moment’s notice to that legacy?
What do you think? Do you think that you can make a difference in a few or even many people’s lives by awakening them to the fact that they can rewrite their stories and make them love stories through forgiveness?