Seems like an odd thought as we continue to reflect on the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Yet it is connected in my mind by a stroke of fate. Let me explain.
Two weeks ago I began a six-month course/training in Attention and Interpretation Therapy as developed at Mayo Clinic by Dr. Amit Sood. He has written an excellent book (link) on how mindfulness and developing certain core principles can make a huge difference in one's life. As part of the 6-month training the participants are to cultivate a different aspect of the principles each day of the week. Monday is gratitude; Tuesday is compassion; Wednesday is acceptance; Thursday is meaning; Friday is... yes, forgiveness.
The instructions are basically to become mindful of the world around you as you move through each day and bring the principle of the day to all you do. Last Friday was the first Friday to be practicing these principles. Gratitude and compassion were easy as the week began. Acceptance has been a core of my life in recovery for over two decades. Meaning- hey, I have been searching for that on a regular basis for most of six decades.
As I got up last Friday morning and did my morning gratitude list and lifted people into the sphere of compassion, I paused and wondered how I would ever bring the concept of forgiveness into life. At noon my wife called all distraught by the news that I hadn't even heard yet. It shook my world as it did for many. I went back to my office and looked up the news. I began to feel the anger of others watching this horror unfold. The early stages of the thoughts I would write last Saturday (posted Tuesday) began to form.
Forgiveness wasn't one of them. About mid-afternoon I stopped long enough to think of the AIT training course.
Oh, yeah, that's right. Today's about forgiveness.
Not now. No way.
In any case, forgiveness isn't mine to give in this setting. That belongs to the victims; young, hopeful angels cut down in a moment of terror and God knows what. Forgiveness belongs to them and their families; and the first responders still reeling, I am sure, from the sight they had to witness. Forgiveness? No, that's not for me to give. In the end it may only be for God to give, whatever that may mean in this terrible context.
Or is it?
A week has passed. Again I have given gratitude on Monday and compassion on Tuesday. Much of that came as a result of last Friday. I am grateful for so much and my compassion went flowing out to the victims and their families in waves of sadness. Acceptance- well, I have no choice. It has happened and cannot be changed. It is now indelibly etched in the American psyche, mine included. It is the way it is, like it or not. In the midst of that has to be a meaning to be learned. Maybe we as a nation will finally make a long-delayed move to keep these from happening as frequently as they do. Maybe that will give meaning to a meaningless act.
I come again to get ready for Friday with its core principle of forgiveness. Part of me wants to cry out to God: "Instead of forgiveness, how about fairness and justice and healing?" Many have cried, "How can Adam Lanza be forgiven? Let him burn in hell!" Great parts of me agree.
Yet, as the course I am doing reminds me, forgiveness from me isn't for Adam Lanza or anyone else. It is for me. My health and the health of my soul demands my participation in forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not:
- excuse or
- sets me free
- to live by my own core values and spiritual principles.
- prison of
- hatred and
- anger and
- envision hope and
- a future where these unspeakable atrocities are part of a past evil.
That is my goal for tomorrow as it unfolds, though. I need it. The people I will meet need it. Not my forgiveness but their own. Not my condoning Adam Lanza's insanity or excusing it away; but putting it in its proper place- an act of a lone, sick, perhaps even evil young man trapped in his own hell that was far beyond his meager ability to control. As he planned and plotted he was making, perhaps, some last ditch effort to feel pain or loss or to get rid of it. Only in his own mind, twisted and unbalanced, it meant visiting more pain on others.
My forgiveness is so I do not get trapped in his sickness and continue to live his pain in my soul. I will not allow that to happen. I cannot allow that to happen or I will be another of his victims as my soul dies under his evil and hatred.
"Adam Lanza," I now want to cry, "Enough. Be gone! I am through with your works and scary eyes gazing from over-pixeled pictures. I leave you to God and grace or forgiveness or whatever the Creator has for you."
This does not mean that any of those devastated parents or clergy or neighbors of Newtown need to do this. I cannot - I must not - pretend to even know the tiniest bit of their pain. But if I am to be part of a solution to this nightmare, if I am to be here to help them and our nation, I need to do this for me.
Forgiveness now has a new meaning as this Friday, a week later, dawns. May I have the grace and strength to find ways to live it as the day unfolds.
As if that wasn't enough for my tired soul, my Higher Power, my God, was not finished with me as I wrote those lines. My iPhone music shuffle worked its mystical ways one more time as what may be my most meaningful hymn came through the headphones.
Reminding me that we each are called to find that peace in our soul. It is the only way we can life it.
When peace like a river attendeth my way When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot you have taught me to say
It is well with my soul.
Though the devil will ruin Though trials will come
Let this blest assurance control That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And shed his own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul...
Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back like a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
It is well
With my soul