Friday, May 17, 2013

Before They are Sorry

-In the Galapagos Islands-
a perched eagle prepares to fly

While I can understand the pain and anger that has emerged in the wake of last month's Boston Marathon bombings, I find it very disquieting that so many people are still so filled with a need for brutal revenge against the brothers who committed these acts. The unrestrained outcry that the younger brother be put to death for his deeds, and the fact that, until recently, the dead body of the older brother could not even be be buried, is very significant to me.

I fear that, in our contemporary age of terrorism, this nation has been infected with a nasty and bitter spirit of rage-filled retribution against those who would bring us harm.  Beside infecting us as a nation, this spirit seems to permeate the lives of individuals. The spirit of rage and revenge always yields bitter fruits.

The Buddha taught,

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal 
with the intent of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one who gets burned.

Anger is a natural human response that emerges when we are wronged by another.  But, if I hold onto my anger and allow it to fester within me, it will overflow with a desire for vengeance. When I cling to my anger, it leads me to want to hurt those who hurt me; and when this happens, I find myself churning in the chaos. 

Clinging to anger and seeking revenge is a product of my self-centered ego. Doing this keeps me "in chains," preventing me from finding the deep peace within myself. 

Many people think that the best way to release your anger against an offender is to forgive the other. I think this is absolutely correct; however sometimes "forgiving" someone is not real forgiveness at all.

Oftentimes, forgiveness of another takes on the form of a negotiated deal. "If" you say you are sorry, "if" you make retribution and amends, "If" you come groveling back to me, "then" I will forgive you. In other words,  if you meet my conditions, I will relent and forgive.

I'm not so sure that this type of forgiveness really allows us to let go of the anger against an offender. In a way it fosters a sense of smug righteousness - "you did me wrong and you have paid for it." It all still smacks of vengeance to me.

The 4th century Christian Desert Mothers and Fathers have a beautiful and wise "saying" about genuine "forgiveness ." For me, the one little sentence captures the essence of the kind of forgiveness that truly allows us to let our anger go.

Forgive those who wrong you before they are sorry.

This is the way to deep peace and perfect freedom. This is the way to soar like an eagle.  

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