The Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Mercy, I might be the queen of holding a grudge. Sometimes, I just can’t help reacting to negative behaviors and judgments of others as well as my own negative judgments of others and myself. And, oftentimes, when someone’s values are in conflict with my own, I go through some internal process of revolt. You’d think that by my age, I could have overcome this futile process. It can be such a struggle and a bother.
But thanks to the spiritual guidance and teaching of an erudite and compassionate local Episcopal priest, I have been working a lot on compassion, starting with her class on compassion meditation. One of the resources she recommends as part of this work is a book written by the late Anglican bishop and theologian Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu entitled, The Book of Forgiving. In the book, the authors introduce “the Fourfold Path of the Forgiveness Cycle,” a cycle of forgiveness and healing versus a cycle of revenge. The “Fourfold Path of the Forgiveness Cycle” involves the following steps:
- Telling the story
- Naming the hurt
- Granting Forgiveness (recognizing shared humanity)
- Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
Sometimes, I feel as if I am floating between the two paths, not necessarily seeking revenge, but holding myself hostage under a sense of disgust and disappointment, but certainly not with a compassionate and forgiving heart. With my better intentions to practice compassion and implement the “Fourfold Path” approach, I am learning to embrace my common humanity with others and focus more on my connection with others rather my separation.
The parable of the “Unmerciful Servant,” the lord of the servant demonstrates compassion and forgiveness towards the servant who cannot pay him. Alternately, the servant demonstrates a more revengeful response to another servant who cannot pay. When the lord of the servant chooses compassion and forgiveness, he recognizes shared humanity and understands that the servant is giving and doing the absolute best he can under his current circumstances. It’s a path of moving forward. When the servant alternately chooses the revengeful approach, he rejects a sense of shared humanity with the servant and chooses harm and punishment over compassion. It’s a path with a dead end.
That shift in approach, choosing compassion and forgiveness over revenge helps bring us closer to God. Embracing our common humanity and relinquishing the hurt and pain caused to us by others and ourselves really does soften the edges. It helps me pray for another person’s well-being rather than holding my grudge.
Through this approach of forgiveness through shared humanity, I start thinking a whole lot less about my sorry imperfections and yours. We share this world together. How loving and how freeing!
Virginia Bear Banister