Monday, September 30, 2013

FORGIVENESS

Being hurt is part of the human condition. All of us have been let down and disappointed. We have all been hurt by someone we care about. 

All of us have failed as people occasionally.. We are not perfect creations, and part of our journey is making mistakes. Which makes compassion and forgiveness something we all must dispense, and way too often need. 

Some of us have been scarred deeply, and find it’s hard to let go of the resentment. We too often hold onto pain, becoming bitter in the process. For those who have grown up in dysfunction, its watching and living in a household sinking into anger’s abyss, that makes learning to forgive a struggle. I know many who still are angry at their now deceased parents for reasons both great and petty. 

But it’s not retribution that heals our lives. It’s forgiveness. 

It’s easy to focus on the injustices we have been dealt. An “eye for an eye” is hardwired into the DNA of most religious denominations. But in our search for some elusive form of perfect justice, we never find it. 


“Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself” – RICHARD NIXON


In many ways, the Election of 1960 changed things. The loser, Richard Nixon, chose not to contest the result. But as the saying goes, the resurrection is not that spoken of in scripture, for the dead certainly rose in certain South Texas and Cook County precincts. He was notoriously angry at the media, famously telling a press conference after his loss in the 1962 California gubernatorial election, “you won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.” 

The chip Nixon carried on his shoulder predated the loss to the charismatic Jack Kennedy. Some thought it went back to a joyless childhood, the deaths of two young brothers, his cold and remote Quaker mother, and most notably a very angry and embittered father. His campaigns were notoriously dirty affairs, with tactics extreme for the McCarthy era. His image never recovered from the name “Tricky Dicky” , or the Herblock cartoons showing a heavy bearded Nixon emerging from a sewer. The perception was so pervasive, a recurrent theme of his successful 1968 campaign was the presence of a kinder, gentler “New Nixon.” 

The rest of the story needs little retelling. The end of the Nixon presidency had its seeds in not just a botched burglary of the DNC offices, but in the fact he never could let all the past slights go. Few days in our history were as tragic as the end of the Watergate era, and some believe the ongoing toxicity of those days, haunts our politics today.

A month after his resignation, the country was shocked at hearing of his crimes being pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Even today there are those convinced a quid pro quo between the two Presidents took place. The pardon possibly cost Ford the narrow 1976 election. It took nearly forty years for a different picture to emerge, that Ford really believed that the only way for the nation to progress was to stop a process that would have taken years of trials and appeals. Deeper still, Gerald Ford knew from his own experience that forgiveness was a gift we give ourselves in order to move on. For he himself had to learn to forgive a legacy of hurt from his good for nothing biological father, in order to accomplish the rest of his good life. Even the pardon’s most eloquent critic, recognized Gerald Ford did the nation a greater favor than he did Richard Nixon. When Gerald Ford accepted the Kennedy Library’s Profile in Courage Award, he did so from Edward M. Kennedy. Who, in his own great political and flawed personal life, knew a bit about the politics of compassion and the need for personal forgiveness. 


“Refusing to forgive is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.” - UNKNOWN


We need to forgive people for ourselves, so that we don’t get trapped into that place where the elusiveness of vindication, creates a perpetual cycle of anger at the injustice of someone, “Getting away with it.” We never really do know, the utter hell that may occupy the existence of another. Karma is a powerful force, and none really knows what awaits us after we transition. 

When we live in a state of anger, it poisons our other relationships. In our romantic life, the unresolved anger we carry from the past, can define our current relationship. When we are so conditioned, we push others away. In business it compromises our judgement, and causes us to miss out on all the good that can be done with the time we spend focused on a frozen past that never changes. Wallowing in our own self-pity. 

People are inevitably going to let us down. People are imperfect, they do dumb things and we wound ourselves and others. We strive for perfection, but never totally prevent our daily sins of omission and commission. We hope our worst transgressions are repairable, but whatever their scale, all but those with ethical bypasses at birth, will find themselves forgiveness, hoping there might be some absolution. 

All of us have been wounded. Friends, Lovers, Parents and Siblings, have the power to wound. And in other very profound ways, we find our those dynamics present in our professional lives. In my own walk there have been times life where I never let a slight be forgotten, and found carrying them inside, just set the stage for others. When we live in that ongoing state of judgment, it creates a realization as unrealistic as never being hurt. For it presupposes that the next person you meet, is to be feared. Some live life in utter terror of being profoundly hurt, because the underlying cause was never really resolved. 

It can be very hard to learn how to forgive. But if we seek to try, we find with each success there comes strength with truly letting the past go. 

Some confuse forgiveness with weakness. And forgiveness does not mean, hanging around to be kicked again. It’s about coming to terms with a situation, with zero obligation to keep exposing ourselves to toxic dynamics. We can forgive someone while still absenting them from our presence. Forgiveness is about letting go of anger and judgement of a situation driven by someone else. We really do not know the utter hell others go through, or the reasons animating their behaviors. They only thing one can do, is be aware of our own hearts, and let that animate our choices. 

One of the best ways to peace into life is to truly let go. There is merit in detaching ourselves from outcomes, much less those others can only control. The more we can access compassion and empathy, the less we worry about life’s downside. It may seem counter intuitive to believe that only by forgiving those can we move on and find peace. It’s very hard to imagine forgiving apartheid, without some heavy consequences, but that is what Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu chose to do in South Africa. The truth and reconciliation commission was a body tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing in order to resolve conflicts and the past. One lesson that was found, is that the oppressors needed absolution more than the oppressed needed retribution. 

My favorite quote is from Gandhi : “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always.” No matter how difficult it may seem to forgive someone, there is no escape from the consequences of actions, no matter if termed Karma or Divine Judgement. Forgiving is one of the best ways to bring the gift of peace into our life. It may be hard to get there. But it is infinitely easier than the alternative. 

MANY BLESSINGS - NOEL




NIXON'S Farewell