Small Seeds of Hope: A More Merciful End
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week
Gratitude: Noticing the Little Things. Neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral, notes that, “dozens of studies in recent years have shown the benefits of gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, gratitude improves mood. When you think about and express more gratitude, it’s easier to feel positive emotions.” Gratitude also improves physical health, improves sleep and increases social support. So remember to pay attention to the small things in your life--a smile, a golden flower, the smell that lingers after a good rain. Or the basics that we tend to take for granted--clean water, good food, relatively peaceful surroundings. When I do this, I feel calmer, more optimistic, more connected. Hopefully you do too.
A More Merciful End
Back in early September I did a post called "I Will Not Fan the Flames" which included the words for a song from my young adult novel, Before. As I mentioned in that post, the song is "sung for a very small group of people at a pivotal time in the story, as two of those present are facing up to having caused serious harm to each other."
Cassi, a fourteen year old girl and the protagonist of the story, is one of those two. She had been badly hurt, emotionally, by someone she considered to be an enemy, and then, seeking revenge, ended up accidentally causing serious physical injury to that person, and one other.
She is overcome with guilt and remorse as she struggles to face what she has done. Her family, steeped in the Mennonite traditions of non-violence and forgiveness, offer support as she finds her way through the jungle of legitimate guilt, violent self-recrimination, grief, and responsibility.
“Two things can hinder grace and forgiveness,” said Wes [Cassi's father]. “You can harden your heart, try to justify your actions and refuse to admit you’ve done something wrong. Or you can admit the wrong but stay immersed in self-blame and guilt. Both can freeze you in a state of isolation and unforgiveness. Does that make sense?”
“I don’t know,” said Cassi.
"Admitting guilt and accepting forgiveness both take a lot of courage and humility. For one of them a person needs to come down from the exalted place of blamelessness, and for the other to come up from the oppressive place of self-blame and shame.”
“You mean, even though I made other people suffer so much I don’t have to keep suffering?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” said Emma [Cassi's mom]. “It won’t ease their suffering if you suffer more. This whole thing about humility and receiving forgiveness? It’s part of that post-doctoral spirituality that Kate talks about. And it’s going to take time. You can’t push this kind of healing.”
Following this scene, and after an emotional session with Cassi and her (former) enemy, another person sings the song, which tells of his painful journey through a similar situation, with an even worse outcome.
Soon after that, Cassi, a budding poet, pens some lines that grow out of these experiences.
Those who hate and tear
will carry their load of loathing
until it sucks them staggering down.
perhaps feel the flame of proper guilt
and learn to be torn by their tearing,
a more merciful end.
Cassi's life gets pretty dramatic--of course! She is the protagonist of a novel! But all of us face these kinds of issues in various degrees, with enemies of various scales and intensities.
We are all so far from perfect. But perhaps we can help each other end "this grim era of demonization" by finding ways to forgive our enemies, our opponents--and ourselves. To find a more merciful end for all of us. A more merciful end.
Until next time,
Sunrise landscape, Jeremy Goldberg, unSplash
Black-eyed Susan, Lawrence Walkin
Children, Tina Floersch, unSplash