Checking in Regarding Your Unfolding Love Story

At the beginning of this year, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2017.

One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2017 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 2017 is about 25% over. Have you engaged in 25% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?

This exercise is meant to show you this: You know love.  Now the key is to persevere and deliberately strive to love on a daily basis.

Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.

Robert

Love and Forgiveness Prevail in the Face of Hatred

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C. – More than 30 witnesses, all relatives of the nine people Dylann Roof shot down in the Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study in June 2015, registered to speak during the sentencing portion of his trial. Before the Judge ultimately sentenced Roof to death, the witnesses spoke  directly to the self-avowed white supremacist for the first time.

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of shooting victim Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., reminded Roof of her message at his bail hearing that “hate won’t win.” She told him those words held true. Though he hoped to drive people apart, he instead brought people closer together, she said. He had failed in his mission to sow division through his twisted and bloody plan.  emanuel_victims_t580“Instead of starting a race war, you started a love war,” said Melvin Graham, who lost his sister Cynthia Graham Hurd in the shooting.

“I forgive you for you actions. You are just a body being used. You didn’t understand the presence of the evil that possesses you,” added Daniel Simmons, Jr., son of Rev. Simmons. “But thank God that he gives us the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the heartbeat that pulls us to another level.”

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. days after the June 2015 mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others.

“Yes, I forgive you,” said another witness Felicia Sanders who lost her son Tywanza and her aunt Susie Jackson in the shooting. “That was the easiest thing I had to do. … But you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. May God have mercy on your soul.”

“You can’t have my joy,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister died in the shooting. “It is simply not yours to take.”

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” added Anthony Thompson, a relative of victim Myra Thompson. “But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess.”

“Your choices brought us here, but our choice–to respond with love–has kept us here,” Alana Simmons said. “We are all moving on in love and moving on in strength and nothing you can ever do will ever be able to stop that.”

Read more about the South Carolina shooting and forgiveness for the shooter:

On Bearing the Pain

One of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.

When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been Pill of Heartstreated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).

When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.

Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.

Robert

How would you define forgivable offenses? To be particular, can someone forgive another’s failure or deficiency in character (even if there was no wrongful act committed by the person)? For instance, someone might be indifferent to me without meaning to hurt me, but I might still feel offended while knowing he or she didn’t do anything wrong to me. Thank you.

Deficiency of character will come out as behavior, either as a bad act (an act of commission) or as a failure to act when one should (an act of omission). When a person treats you with indifference, this is an act of omission because you are a person of worth and others should not treat you as if you were invisible. This, of course, does not mean that we have to pour ourselves out for everyone we meet. Your example centers on actual interactions which make you feel ignored. We should not treat others as if they do not count or have no worth (an act of omission).  When this occurs, those so ignored can, if they choose, forgive the other.

You talk about forgiveness being not only giving up resentment but also developing compassion and even moral love toward the one who has hurt you. What does it mean to love a stranger who had no relationship with you prior to his offense? There is no trust or relationship to restore to start with, but even in that case, do you think it is possible to love that offender? If you do, would you please give some examples?

Yes, we can love strangers when we realize that all people have inherent (built-in) worth. Therefore, we can serve those we do not know. We can come to the aid of strangers.  When we give money to a suffering person who has her back to a wall as you pass by, you are showing that she has inherent worth. When you refuse to retaliate toward a stranger who is not good to you, you are showing that the person has inherent worth. As you show such worth to others, you are loving those people as you serve them.

What Is Self-Forgiveness?

When you self-forgive you are struggling to love yourself when you are not feeling lovable because of your actions. You are offering to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense that you have inherent worth, despite your actions, that you are more self-forgiveness3than your actions, that you can and should honor yourself as a person even if you are imperfect, and that you did wrong and need to correct that wrong done to other people.

In self-forgiveness you never (as far as I have ever seen) offend yourself alone. You also offend others and so part of self-forgiveness is to deliberately engage in seeking forgiveness from those others and righting the wrongs (as best you can under the circumstances) that you did toward others. Thus, we have two differences between forgiving others and forgiving the self. In the latter, you seek forgiveness from those hurt by your actions and you strive for justice toward them.

Robert

  Editor’s Note: Learn more about self-forgiveness in either of Dr. Enright’s books             8 Keys to Forgiveness or Forgiveness Is a Choice.

You use the term “accept” or “bear” the pain of others’ injustices. Does this mean that we handle this ourselves or do we need help?

I think that help of some kind is always good if that help is wise and supportive.  In other words, speaking with someone who cares about you can help with the carrying of the pain and the lifting of that pain.  So, talking it out is a good thing as long as the other understands, cares, and does not pressure you to forgive.