We need forgiveness education……**now.**
Forgiveness disagrees with you. Forgiveness says that even when enduring the worst of suffering, we have the capacity to love and to show the world that our love is stronger than any suffering thrown our way. To love in the face of grave suffering gives profound meaning to human existence.
I know, I know. You say in response that to love is temporary and so it is an illusion. Life remains meaningless in the face of even love’s illusion.
Yet, for those who have struggled to love, they have an interior proof that this kind of love is real, not an illusion, that can stay with a person. The subjective experience is very affirming that there is meaning to life.
What was that? You are saying that there is no purpose to life? You say that even if a person finds meaning, yet there is no direction to life. You say that all we have left is this passive feeling of love inside that means nothing to anyone else. It is a drug, you say, only for the drugged one.
Forgiveness says otherwise. Forgiveness not only says, but shows that love can be in service to others who are hurting. Once a person experiences the love of forgiveness, then he or she often is highly motivated to share that love with others. This is purpose. This is getting it done. This is no illusion.
Nihilism, I would like you to meet the love that is forgiveness. Love confirms that there is meaning and purpose to life. A definition of nihilism is to negate or to destroy. Perhaps forgiveness has just destroyed nihilism.
How can we pass forgiveness to subsequent generations? Let us begin to explore some answers to this question through the implementation of forgiving communities.
By “forgiving community” we mean a system-wide effort to make forgiveness a conscious and deliberate part of human relations through: discussion, practice, mutual support, and the preservation of forgiveness across time in any group that wishes to cultivate and perfect this virtue (alongside justice and all other virtues). The Forgiving Community is an idea that can become a reality wherever there is a collection of individuals who wish to unite toward a common goal of fostering forgiveness, developing the necessary structures within their organization to accomplish the goal, and preserving that goal for future generations. We will consider The Family as Forgiving Community here and in a subsequent post, we will consider The School as Forgiving Community.
The central points of the Family as Forgiving Community are these:
1. We are interested in the growth of appreciation and practice in the virtue of forgiveness not only within each individual but also within the family unit itself.
2. For family members to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be established as a positive norm in the family unit. This necessitates that the parents value the virtue, talk positively about it, and demonstrate it through forgiving and asking for forgiveness on a regular basis within the family.
3. For each member of the family unit to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be taught in the home, with materials that are age-appropriate and interesting for the children and the parents.
4. Parents will need to persevere in the appreciation, practice, and education of forgiveness if the children are to develop the strength of passing the virtue of forgiveness onto their own families when they are adults.
To achieve these goals, one strategy is the Family Forgiveness Gathering.
Family Forgiveness Gathering
The parents are encouraged to create a time and place for family discussions. We recommend that the parents gather the family together at least once a week to have a quiet discussion about forgiveness. They are to keep in mind that to forgive is not the same as excusing or forgetting or even reconciling and that forgiveness works hand-in-hand with justice.
– What does it mean to forgive someone?
– Who was particularly kind and loving to you this week?
– What did that feel like?
– When the person was really loving toward you, what were your thoughts about the person?
– When the person was really loving, how did you behave toward that person?
– Was anyone particularly unfair or mean to you this week?
– What did it feel like when you were treated in a mean way?
– What were your thoughts?
– Did you try to forgive the person for being unfair to you?
– What does forgiveness feel like?
– What are your thoughts when you forgive?
– What are your thoughts specifically toward the one who acted unfairly to you when you forgive him or her?
– How did you behave toward the person once you forgave?
– If you have not yet forgiven, what is a first step in forgiving him or her? (Make a decision to be kind, commit to forgiving, begin in a small way to see that the person is in fact a person of worth.)
The parents are reminded that they do not have to know all the answers.
As we forgive one person, look what happens: a) We start to forgive others; b) We embody forgiveness, wanting to give it away to others; c) We see each person as special; d) Because forgiveness is part of love and beauty, we begin to love more deeply and to see the beauty of the world more clearly.
Forgiveness does not lessen what happened; it alters how we view the person in spite of what he or she did. It can alter how we see the world and how we interact with others. Forgiveness can give us our life back. It can be an offer to those who acted badly to change their lives so that love and beauty are expanded in their world as well.
We sometimes think that those who hurt us have far more control over us than they actually do. We often measure our happiness or unhappiness by what has happened in the past.
My challenges to you today are these: Your response of forgiveness now to the one who hurt you can set you free from a past influence that has been toxic. Try to measure your happiness by what you will do next (not by what is past). Your next move can be this—to love regardless of what others do to you.
In March of 2014, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2014.
The challenge was this: Give love away as your legacy of 2014.
Our challenge to you now is this: Give love away as your legacy of 2015.
One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2015 so far. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague.
Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?
Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because 2015 will be 50% over as we move through June. Have you engaged in 50% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?
Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.
“I know what love is,” the sincere Forrest Gump famously proclaimed.
I was a bit taken aback by a recent Facebook discussion. One of my friends proclaimed that love is letting each person do as he or she wishes as long as the actions do not hurt anyone else. The context was this: Her friend insisted on continuing to drink alcohol even though further drink could kill her. “It is not hurting me and she just can’t help it the way she drinks,” her statement went.
The ancient Greeks had four words for love. One, storge, is the natural love of a mother for her baby, for example. A second form of love, philia, constitutes the natural love that we have come to call brotherly love in which related people cooperate with each other and have a natural affection. Eros, or romantic love, is the third. The fourth, which was vaguely specified in ancient Greece, agape, came to be known by such scholars as Thomas Aquinas as love that is in service to others for the others’ good.
I think that my Facebook friend had in mind the agape variety of love as she proclaimed her friend’s right to drink herself to death. Yet, such tolerance is a poor substitute for the real-thing of agape love because letting the friend die, perhaps a painful or even tortuous death, hardly is in service to that other.
Since when did tolerance become equated with agape love? “As long as it does not hurt me” sounds much more self-serving than other-serving.
Have we so privatized love that it means letting others do as they please regardless of the outcome…..as long as the other really, really wants to do this and as long as I am not directly and concretely harmed by the action? This seems to me to be the antithesis of genuine love, which would express concern and attempt to help, even if this made the helper uncomfortable……or even made the other uncomfortable.
“I know what love is.” Love unexplored and proclaimed as tolerance does not seem much like love to me.